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Can I be fired if I don’t get the coronavirus vaccine? Your rights explained


SOME bosses are drawing up new ‘No Jab, No Job’ contracts designed to force staff to get the coronavirus vaccine.

But employment lawyers are warning that these contracts may not be legal, depending on how they are written and how long you have been employed.

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Employers across the UK are bringing in No Jab, No Job contracts

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Employers across the UK are bringing in No Jab, No Job contractsCredit: Getty Images – Getty

Here’s everything you need to know about your rights when it comes employments and Covid-19 vaccinations.

Can my boss force me to get a Covid-19 jab?

There’s plenty of workplaces that want their workforce inoculated against coronavirus, but they can’t physically make you have a jab.

Jodie Hill, employment lawyer at Thrive Law said: “Employers can’t legally force employees to take the vaccine; they can’t actively jab a vaccine in your arm or obtain a court order to force an employee to be vaccinated.

“It is also likely to be seen as a breach of employees’ human rights and there are possible criminal implications to consider as well.”

However, your employer can introduce measures to encourage you to get a vaccination, with some companies rewriting their contracts to say that all staff need to have the jab.

Pimlico Plumbers, a network of plumbers operating across London is one such firm.

Charlie Mullins, the founder of Pimlico Plumbers told The Sun: “At Pimlico we’re planning to make it compulsory for new staff to have had the vaccine in the future, in order to protect the safety of staff and customers. It’s been called ‘No jab, no job’, but I prefer to call it common sense.

“We will also be encouraging existing staff to have the vaccine… and legal opinion is that it can be supported by existing health and safety legislation.”

Meanwhile, care home operator Barchester Health has said that it will not take on any new staff that have refused the vaccination on non-medical grounds.

This means that even if your current employer isn’t enforcing vaccinations, you may struggle if you want to move on to a new role elsewhere.

According to the lawyers, there is nothing to stop businesses from creating these contracts, however, they can’t be automatically applied to existing employees.

Sarah Calderwood, partner at Slater Heelis said: “Introducing a contractual requirement for employees to have Covid vaccinations is a change in terms and conditions which employees would have to agree to.

“Without their expressed or implied agreement, employees are entitled to resign and claim constructive unfair dismissal.”

You should read all contracts carefully, as you could find that you’ve indirectly agreeing to have the vaccine if you sign a new contract.

Can I be fired if I don’t get a coronavirus vaccination?

If your company has introduced a new coronavirus clause in contracts, it may try to take disciplinary action against staff that don’t comply.

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For new joiners, this can mean that you get fired if you don’t get the jab.

Existing employees who have agreed to a change of contract may also face disciplinary action if they refuse the vaccine when it is offered.

Employment lawyers are urging businesses to be cautious as employees who refuse to be vaccinated could bring claims against the company.

What are my redundancy rights?

BEFORE making you unemployed, your employer should still carry out a fair redundancy process.

You are entitled to be consulted on the redundancy lay-off first and to receive a statutory redundancy payment, as long as you’ve been working somewhere for at least two years.

How much you’re entitled to depends on your age and length of service, although this is capped at 20 years. You’ll get:

  • Half a week’s pay for each full year you were under 22,
  • One week’s pay for each full year you were 22 or older, but under 41,
  • One and half week’s pay for each full year you were 41 or older.

Sadly, you won’t be entitled to a payout if you’ve been working for your employer for fewer than two years.

There should be a period of collective consultation as well as time for individual ones if your employer wants to make 20 or more employees redundant within 90 days or each other.

You are also entitled to appeal the decision by claiming unfair dismissal within three months of being let go.

There are some legitimate reasons why people may not have a coronavirus vaccine, for instance if they are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, breastfeeding, for religious reasons, due to ethical veganism or because of a disability or allergy.

Some of these reasons are linked to characteristics that are protected in law, that means if your employer dismisses you, it could be discrimination.

ACAS said: “An employer must consider if someone’s reason for not wanting the vaccine could be protected from discrimination by the Equality Act 2010. For example, if they’re pregnant.”

How long you have worked for a company is also important here too. Employers could dismiss people who don’t have a jab for “failure to follow reasonable management instructions”.

Jodie says: “There’s nothing to actually stop the dismissal taking effect but it’s not without risks, particularly where the employee has more than two years’ service and/or can allege discrimination.

“Unfortunately, workers and self-employed contractors may see their contracts being terminated where they fail to comply with a “no jab, no job” policy, and they would be unable to claim unfair dismissal as a result of their status.”

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Other important factors include the nature of your job and whether it can easily be carried out remotely.

If you can productively work from home, your employer will have a more difficult time arguing that you need to get the jab to carry out your role.

On the other hand, if you have a job which involves face-to-face contact or moving between people’s homes, your employer might find it easier to make their case.

If you have a job where international travel is necessary and you need a jab to enter different countries, your boss may be allowed to deploy you into a different role, or even dismiss you altogether if you don’t have a vaccine.

Can my boss stop paying me if I don’t get a jab?

Normally if you want to work and your employer refuses to let you, you get your pay as normal.

But if your contract says that you must have a vaccination, then your boss can argue that you are not entitled to pay as you are unsafe to work.

If your company does this, they must set out the deductions in a written agreement. If there is no written agreement you could have a case for constructive dismissal.

What is statutory sick pay (SSP)?

IF you’re too sick to work, you may qualify for statutory sick pay (SSP) from your employer.

To qualify for sick pay, you must work for an employer and earn on average at least £120 per week (£6,240 per year).

The weekly rate for statutory sick pay is £95.85 for up to 28 weeks, although most employers will pay more than this.

From April 16, employers were told to start paying sick pay to those who were shielding from the first day an employee was off work.

Businesses didn’t have to pay any money for someone who was shielding before this date. This scheme ended on August 1. 

To qualify, you will need to have been off work due to illness or self-isolate due to coronavirus for at least four days in a row. 

You won’t qualify if you’ve already received the maximum amount of pay – which is 28 weeks.

You also won’t qualify if you’re getting Statutory Maternity Pay.

Does my work have to give me paid time off to get my jab?

Technically your employer does not have to give you paid time off to attend medical appointments, although some choose to do so.

A coronavirus vaccine appointment is likely to be treated the same, so it is worth checking what your contract says before booking in for a jab.

If your employer is insisting that you have the vaccine as part of your contract, then it should properly facilitate that and let you do it during work time.

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If your boss is redrafting your contract you could ask them to put in a clause to say that time off for the jab will be paid in full.

Some employers may even choose to offer the vaccination as a benefit if private jabs are an option in the future.

The Pimlico Plumbers boss has said he would be happy to pay for all staff to receive the vaccination if it becomes available privately.

What can I do if I’m worried about my employer and the Covid-19 jab?

In the first instance, speak to your boss – as you may find that your employer is prepared to be flexible.

Outline your reasons for not wanting to get vaccinated and explain the situation to the company.

ACAS advises that employees do this informally in the first instance. It says: “They can do this by talking with their:

  • employer
  • health and safety representative, if they have one
  • trade union representative, if they’re a member of a trade union”

Most of the organisations that have publicly announced they will be adopting ‘No Jab, No Job’ contracts have confirmed that they won’t fire existing staff who don’t want a jab.

For instance, Pimlico Plumbers told the Sun: “Just to be clear, we’re not forcing anyone to have the vaccine and for staff who are worried about it, or can’t have a vaccine for health reasons, we will cross that bridge when we come to it.”

If an informal discussion doesn’t help, ACAS advises that you raise a formal grievance. It lays out a step by step guide to the process here.

If you lose your job because you don’t get vaccinated you may want to speak to an employment lawyer to see whether you have a case for constructive dismissal or discrimination.

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