Vaccinations and employees

Julian cole portrait.

Julian Cole

Senior Solicitor

Phone 01264 353411


It is now mandatory for people working or volunteering in certain care homes in England to be vaccinated against Covid-19, unless they are exempt.

The law, which applies from 11 November 2021, will be welcomed by many. But the idea of compulsory vaccination isn’t something that sits well with all, nor is it something the majority of employers should be thinking about. For most of the population, the vaccine remains optional and a personal decision. Not everyone is willing or able to have it. Employers therefore need to be sensitive to workers’ individual situations and to avoid some potential legal pitfalls of requiring or pressurising staff to have the jab.

This can be a difficult issue for management and HR to handle, particularly as there is an overarching duty on employers to take care of the health and safety of its workforce (and Covid is a clear risk). In addition, businesses may be concerned about the logistical and commercial challenges that come with staff absence and, potentially, the implications of long Covid. The ideal may therefore be for all employees to be vaccinated so as to reduce as much as possible the risk of transmission and serious effects of Covid.

This has to be about encouraging, not forcing. Acas advises that employers should support staff in getting the vaccine and may find it useful to talk to them about the vaccine’s benefits. It’s a good idea to include union or staff representatives in these discussions.

If you are an employer that wants staff to have the vaccine, consider why. Also, what may be stopping those workers who haven’t yet had it? While some may simply not agree with it, or just haven’t got round to having it, there’s a likelihood that others will have a health reason or a philosophical or religious reason for refusing the vaccine. The risk of discrimination is therefore very real. And beyond that, care should be taken not to handle the situation in a way that alienates any worker, or leads to them feeling in any way badly treated. Remember your data protection and confidentiality obligations, too. 

Good communication and a sensitive approach to individual feelings and circumstances really is key. It’s also vital to understand where employers could go wrong in having these discussions with staff and in encouraging take-up of the vaccine. We’re here to help, both with an overall strategy (including a vaccine policy) and with advice on the conversations you could and should be having.

Contact us on 01264 353411 or email

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