No jab, no job: Are companies right to only hire vaccinated staff?

Nurse Maria Alexiou preparing a Covid-19 vaccination

Nurse Maria Alexiou preparing a Covid-19 vaccination at the new mass vaccination centre at Connaught Hall in Attleborough. - Credit: Danielle Booden

Lawyers have warned companies to tread extremely carefully when it comes to hiring policies in relation to vaccinations. 

Companies across the UK have said they will consider only making hires if the individual has been vaccinated - prompting questions of whether this is discriminatory. 

On the other hand, businesses in East Anglia such as care homes have argued that if staff are not vaccinated they put the health of colleagues and those they are caring for at risk.

Law firm Birketts' senior associate in the employment team Sam Greenhalgh urged companies to seek advice before making any decisions: "Having a policy to only recruit employees who have had or had part of a vaccination against COVID-19 could on the face of it seek to protect other staff and stakeholders that the employee may come across as part of their role.

"For example, requiring a new recruit to have been vaccinated for a role working in the NHS or the care sector could be reasonable due to the fact that not being vaccinated could leave vulnerable people that they will be working with exposed.

"However, not all employers will have the ability to rely on such a justification. Where individuals are able to perform their role from home, for example, an employer will struggle to justify this requirement.

"Notwithstanding any justification argument that an employer may have, employers should be careful that such a requirement is not unlawfully discriminatory. Such a requirement could have an indirect effect on individuals that have a protected characteristic."

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