Somebody recieving a vaccination in their arm

Can your employer force you to have a Covid jab?

This is a hot topic at the moment. Our advice is that If your employer says that you will be dismissed unless you have a vaccine, that will be unlawful as an unfair dismissal. As an existing employee, you would have to agree to be vaccinated against infections as a term of your contract. That is not automatically a fair or reasonable condition of employment . However, what is reasonable depends upon the context.

A test of what is reasonable would have to involve a consideration of Article 8 of the Human Rights Act; your right to control who touches your body. There are some circumstances where it may be possible for an employer  to argue that interference with Article 8 may be proportionate for protecting health, or for protecting the rights and freedoms of other people for example when working in community care, the NHS and Care Homes.

However, if your work is predominantly home based then it is unlikely that your employer could justifiably dismiss you for refusing to have a vaccine.

Bear in mind that any condition requiring you to have vaccinations against infections generally would also be far more intrusive than a requirement to have a specific Covid-19 vaccination. So the wording of any proposed contract change would be important in any context. Also bear in mind that a change to your contract cannot be imposed; it has to be agreed and there is no obligation on you as an employee to agree it.

Further practicalities on this are that the Covid-19 vaccine is not available privately, and there is no legal obligation imposed on you by the Government (at the time of writing) requiring you to have the jab. So any attempt to make the vaccination a term of your employment would appear to unreasonable for a manner of reasons. So, if you are dismissed because you have not had the Covid-19 jab, that is likely to be unlawful, whereas if you are dismissed because of the increased risk posed as a consequence of not having the jab, then that may be a fair and reasonable ground for dismissal.

The position is different when it comes to recruitment. If it is a requirement that all recruits must be vaccinated against infectious diseases and you chose to apply for that role based on those conditions, then you will have consented to engagement on those terms. Ultimately that will have been a matter of your choice.

As ever, with employment claims, context and individual circumstances are all important. If you would like free initial advice please give Andy Robinson a call or e-mail at andy.robinson@frylaw.co.uk

Photo of a bald headed Andy Robinson with big glasses and a suit, looking serious!

About the Author

Chris Fry

Chris is the founder of Fry Law.