Can Your Employer Force You Back To The Office/To Be Vaccinated

Those of you following me on LinkedIn, will know that the debate has been raging for some time about to what extent employers can force staff to return to the office and/or force them to get the covid vaccination jab. Many employers are now informing staff about their expected office attendance levels post lockdown.  This seems to vary from, ‘work from where you want to’ through to, ‘ you need to be back in the office every day’.

Presenteeism justifiable?

Businesses which have functioned well with their staff working from home during covid may find it hard to justify refusing continued home working .  Employees with 6 months or more service have the right to make a request for flexible working.  Such requests can only be refused by an employer on certain grounds and a refusal can be challenged if the impact is discriminatory or if it undermines the employment relationship.  We are likely to see more push back by employees against employers that insist on office presenteeism.

Fear of returning

Where an employee has genuine concerns about their health and safety in the workplace due to covid a version of whistleblowing type protection can apply.  In such cases any dismissal for failure to return to the office may give rise to a claim against the employer.

Jab requirement

In terms of vaccination against Covid, most employers are taking a cautious approach and are simply encouraging their staff to get vaccinated when they are offered the chance to do so.  Whether or not an employer can make having the jab a requirement will depend on the circumstances including:-

  • the sector in which the employer operates – working with medically vulnerable clients/customers may help an employer seeking to justify a jab requirement.
  • whether such a direction from the employer is reasonable – could the workplace be made safe by other means (PPE/distancing/ventilation etc), to what extend does having the jab reduce the risk of transmission (recent study are suggesting the reduction could be as high as 50% which will help an employer seeking to justify a jab requirement) etc.
  • to what extent is the employee refusing to have the job protected by discrimination law

If you have concerns about returning to the workplace post covid or about any requirement from your employer for you to have the jab in circumstances where you do not/cannot do so please contact David.

Posted on Wednesday 19th May 2021

This article/blog is for reference purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be sought separately before taking or deciding not to take any action.

Can Your Employer Force You Back To The Office/To Be Vaccinated

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