After over a year of living with the virus, it appears that we are for now at least, returning to normality. However, we are now faced with a new issue, vaccination requirements. Where an employee is hesitant about the vaccine, will any refusal to be vaccinated constitute grounds for dismissal?
Dismissing an employee with over two years’ service always carries the risks of an unfair dismissal claim. You need to ensure that you dismiss for a fair reason and follow a fair process.
As to whether it would be fair to dismiss in these circumstances would depend very much on the nature of your business and the reason for the refusal.
The Health and Social Care Regulations which come into force on 11 November 2021 require employers to ensure that no person enters a regulated care home unless they provide evidence that they are fully vaccinated or exempt. Unless you operate in the business of registered care homes, you need to think carefully about how you approach this area.
Other risks involved in dismissing for a refusal to have the vaccine or trying to force the vaccine onto your staff include;
1. Disability Discrimination– an employee who for example, refuses the vaccine because they have a health condition could be classed as disabled and therefore protected from discrimination.
2. Discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief– it’s possible that religious or moral objections to the vaccine could be protected.
3. Sex discrimination– current guidance states that pregnant women should be vaccinated but this was not always the case. The change in position has led some pregnant women to become cautious about whether or not to have the vaccine.
This is a difficult area, and we strongly advise that you do not take any action relating to any employees and their refusal to be vaccinated without taking advice. We will consider the circumstances and advise you on the best way forward to protect your business and limit the prospects of a claim being issued against you.
Please contact us. if you have any questions about how to deal with the issue of vaccinations in the workplace.