Compulsory vaccination and its implications6th August 2021 • 2 min read • Helen Littlewood
The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly had a drastic impact on the UK’s population who require care. The COVID-19 virus continues to pose a significant heightened risk to the elderly and to individuals with serious underlying medical conditions, some of whom may require care.
Under new legislation, those undertaking any work in care homes in England will need to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The requirement comes into force on 11 November 2021 and will exclude any individual who, for clinical reasons, cannot be vaccinated. Religious and philosophical beliefs will not be permitted as valid reasons for being unvaccinated against COVID-19.
The legislation goes beyond those directly employed by a care home and extends to contractors, agency workers, volunteers, healthcare workers and anyone coming into the care home to do other work. You will still be permitted to enter a care home if you are unvaccinated and are:
- a resident;
- a friend or relative of a resident;
- a provider of emergency help (e.g. paramedic or emergency plumber); and/or
- under the age of 18.
UK courts cannot overturn or quash primary legislation passed by Parliament. Therefore, providing that the legislation is clear, the courts shall be compelled to follow it as the Government intended. In the case of care homes, from 11 November 2021, the refusal of the COVID-19 vaccines may constitute valid grounds for terminating employment / engagements.
In sectors outside care homes, the courts will remain mindful that compulsory vaccination at work could amount to an interference of an individual’s right to private life (Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights) and may be disproportionate to those who are unable or unwilling to have the COVID-19 vaccines due to, for example, reasons relating to pregnancy, ethnicity, religion or philosophical beliefs. This will, of course, be very fact specific and whilst we are yet to see Tribunal cases on this, these are expected in the coming year or so.
- are an employee being told by your employer that you will need to be vaccinated to continue your employment; or
- are an employer wishing to assess the legal risks associated with requiring your workforce to be vaccinated,
Please note the information contained in this briefing is intended as a general review of the subject featured and is not a substitute for obtaining specific legal advice.