No Jab, No Job? Will the Covid-19 Vaccination become compulsory?
Saga, the company that provides insurance and holidays for the over 50s, has just said that it will turn away any cruise passengers who have not been vaccinated against Covid-19 at least 14 days prior to departure.
Since November, Australian airline Qantas has stated that passengers will need to prove they have had the vaccination before they are allowed to fly and in the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that vaccinations will not be compulsory.
But is he right? Or will the vaccination become compulsory in all but name?
If you want to go on holiday, go to the cinema, eat in a restaurant, attend a concert, it is easy to see a lot more owners of venues and event organisers following the lead of Saga and Qantas. After all, if you go to an event and subsequently catch Covid, have the organisers taken ‘all reasonable precautions’ to protect you as the consumer if they didn’t insist on proof of the vaccine for everyone attending?
The question of mandatory vaccinations becoming a legal minefield is clear and nowhere will this be more true than in the workplace. Could it, as the title of this article suggests, become a case of ‘no jab, no job?’.
January marks a year on from the start of the pandemic and many employers and their employees will, inevitably, be attracted by the idea of a fully vaccinated office or factory.
The London-based firm, Pimlico Plumbers, has already set aside money to vaccinate its entire workforce (assuming it can be done privately) and has said that vaccination will be a condition of employment.
Can they do that? Whether it is Pimlico or another employer it is certain to be challenged in the courts. Those opposed to the vaccine, on medical or ethical grounds, will make a very simple argument: ‘it wasn’t a condition of my employment that I had the MMR jab, how can you therefore insist I have the Covid jab?’ There are certain to be claims for unfair dismissal.
There is also the question of discrimination. Will an employer be seen as discriminating against someone who opts not to have the vaccination? What about younger employees, who won’t receive the vaccine for some time? Will an employer insisting on the vaccine be held to have discriminated against them on the grounds of age?
One thing is certain, the employment lawyers are not going to be short of work.
And with the longevity of the vaccine currently unclear, this is not a issue that will be quickly resolved.