Grant Shapps and Dominic Raab, the Secretaries of State for Transport and Foreign Affairs, have both come out in support of so-called 'no jab no job' policies. The Guardian has reported increasing pressure on ministers to outlaw the practice.
'No jab no job' policies would introduce vaccination against COVID-19 as a pre-requisite to hiring, and some companies - such as Pimlico Plumbers - are introducing variations to staff contracts to require existing employees to be vaccinated as well.
Realistically, however, the ministers' public statements do nothing to change the legal position and companies attempting to introduce such policies are likely to face an uphill battle that will involve data privacy, human rights and equality law considerations. It is worth noting that the Government has only introduced mandatory vaccination for care home workers despite calls for all front line NHS staff to be vaccinated.
Mandating vaccines for new hires is tricky because it requires asking about health information on hiring (which is restricted under the law). Varying existing employees' contracts will usually require consent and may lead to employees leaving a company on the basis of constructive dismissal.
Employers will also have to consider the legal and practical risks where existing employees refuse the variation. If employees are fired for not taking the vaccine (and subsequent boosters), there is a strong possibility of claims for unfair and wrongful dismissal and discrimination in the Employment Tribunals.
Advice from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development said it would be “an intrusion on an employee’s body and may discriminate on the basis of disability, or religious or philosophical belief”