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No jab, no job?

Did you know that over a third of employers won’t hire unvaccinated candidates? 

The success of the COVID-19 vaccination received a sizeable commendation, yet the ‘No Jab, No Job’ policy hasn’t fared as well. Similarly to Brexit, the nation is well and truly divided over assets such as vaccine passports, as well as the ethics and legalities around such policies.  

Under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act, any individual cannot be required to undergo medical treatment, including vaccination. Nevertheless, this act does not prevent an employer from asking an employee to consent before offering work. So, where does this leave the UK’s workforce post-pandemic regarding vaccination? 

According to latest statistics from the NHS, 48 million adults in the UK have received their first dose of the vaccine. With Central Government confirming vaccines will be made mandatory for care home workers, with additional murmurs suggesting that this may be extended to all NHS workers, it’s becoming, more so than perhaps anticipated, a real topic of debate amongst the private sector.  

Some commercial businesses like Bloomsbury and Google have already taken the leap. And in Saudi Arabia, the government has said that the ‘No Jab, No Job’ policy will apply to all employees. 

But what are the impacts of these policies on UK businesses? Business leaders will need to weigh up carefully the risks of implementing certain conditions. 

 

Will it inhibit talent uptake? 

In our recent poll of 1,400 respondents, a Brexit-esque divide resulted from employees and job seekers when asked whether the No Jab, No Job policy is discriminative. 51 per cent reported they find the policy to be discriminative, while 49 per cent believe it to be fair. 

Contrastingly, 64 per cent of employers said that they would hire top talent, regardless of whether the candidate had been vaccinated or not.  

These results suggest that many employees and job seekers remain divided over what should qualify their job opportunities and employment conditions, while most employers report they will not be letting the vaccine inhibit the talent they recruit. 

 

Will it discriminate? 

The ‘No Jab, No Job’ policy has raised some questions within the corporate world around discrimination.  

Some employees may have reasons for refusing the vaccine such as religious beliefs, medical conditions, dietary requirements, or may simply choose to exercise their freedom. Without a legally binding contract or requirement to be inoculated, businesses will be hard-pressed implementing such policies without risking a percentage of their workforce.  

Employers refusing employees opportunities for progression or promotion due to identity characteristics is illegal – and discrimination on the grounds of vaccination choice will also be unlawful under the Equality Act 2010.  

Under current legislation, it is almost certainly going to be unlawful for any employer to introduce a vaccine policy to staff. And since there does not appear to be much parliamentary appetite for such far-reaching legislative change, this legal position looks likely to continue.  

 

What could it mean for Health and Safety? 

Introducing a mandatory vaccination policy for employers would be unlawful, however, employers can actively encourage and accommodate their staff to be vaccinated.  

Communicating the benefits of the vaccine, of having a vaccinated workplace and accommodating staff to do so means businesses can ensure they are doing their best at protecting staff’s health and wellbeing.  

Tech giants Amazon, Sky and Three UK are leading the way by offering flexible working hours and paid time off to accommodate staff getting their vaccines during work hours, and time off for potential side effects such as headache or fatigue. 

With the vaccine debate still hot, employers must decide how much they are willing to let it influence their working conditions, recruitment processes and retention rates.  

Vaccine passports are becoming more of a reality, and with a nation determined to get back to a sense of normality, it seems they won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. Future obstacles would be worth pre-empting, such as COVID-19 and sick pay. If an employee refused vaccination and subsequently caught the virus, how sympathetic should employers be?  

As the vaccination scheme sees more incentives and backing, simultaneously as COVID-19 cases rise once again, employers and employees alike may find they are treading a fine line.  

As featured in Global Recruiter.