New research reveals that two-fifths of organisations (40 per cent) are willing to dismiss an employee who refuses to get vaccinated. 

A new survey conducted by HRLocker, cloud-based HR software, shows the heightened importance of vaccinations to employers – with four in 10 (40 per cent) stating that they would be willing to dismiss an employee who refused to be vaccinated.

Furthermore, a quarter of the employers surveyed (23 per cent) stated that they would make it mandatory for staff to receive vaccinations. As it currently stands, employers cannot force an employee to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

However, this has not prevented some companies such as Pimlico Plumbers, a large plumbing company based in London, from rewriting their staff’s contracts to require employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

A more common approach, with over half agreeing (51 per cent), was employers encouraging employees to get vaccinated but not requiring this. Over one in 10 (12 per cent) stated that they were undecided at present.

In order to do this, four in 10 employers (40 per cent) stated that they would provide resources on where and how to get vaccinated. Over a third (37 per cent) said that internal communications would be used to promote the benefits of vaccination.

However, almost half of employers also confessed (49 per cent) that they would choose to hire a candidate that has been vaccinated over one that has not.

Despite saying this, the greatest risk that employers perceived linked to making vaccinations mandatory was the potential legal claims they could receive as a result. This seems to follow the trend seen recently where COVID-19 has indeed spiked litigation claims against employers.

Almost half of companies (48 per cent) feared the legal claims that could follow after making the vaccine mandatory for employees whilst 41 per cent expected employee backlash as a result of making it compulsory, leading to more staff choosing to leave the company. Around a fifth (20 per cent) of employers felt that forcing employees to get vaccinated could lead to reputational damage for the company.

Ultimately, over half of executives (51 per cent) stated that they planned to continue to make remote working an option for employees whose jobs do not require them to be in the workplace.

Lucy Gordon, Director in the Employment Team at law firm, Walker Morris, talks about whether employers can require staff to be vaccinated against Covid-19:

The UK government has confirmed that it will not embark on mandatory vaccination for UK residents, which leaves open the question of whether employers could require staff to be vaccinated as a condition of attending work. The legality of this approach, and the fairness of taking disciplinary action in the event of non-compliance, like many things in employment law, is a question of what is reasonable.

If an employee refused consent for a vaccination, the employer would need to decide whether it was reasonable in the circumstances to take disciplinary action. This would depend on the reasons given for the refusal and the employer’s justification for requiring vaccination in the first place.

It is likely to be far safer and less contentious for employers to promote take up of vaccines rather than to enforce roll-out, just as the government will be doing. Employers should be mindful of different viewpoints and take positive action to encourage reliable, fact-based information being given to employees. Employers could consider inviting in healthcare specialists to answer employees’ questions to allay any concerns.

*Between 14th December 2020 and 14th January 2021, HRLocker surveyed 750 buisness leaders (CEOs, CHROs, Managing Directors, HR Directors) across the UK and Ireland.