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Can your employer recommend you get vaccinated? Legal rules explained

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The latest rules in Italy have been met with mixed reaction, with opposition groups claiming the move is “without scientific foundation”. People from other countries, including the UK, have also criticised the policy, fearing it could eventually cross the Channel. One legal expert has walked Express.co.uk through the legality surrounding the vaccine mandate.

Can your employer ask you to get vaccinated?

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said his recent push for vaccination came from a wish to “keep our hospitals functioning well and at the same time keep open schools and business activities”.

The UK is suffering from many of the same issues, with low vaccination rates and high Covid caseloads threatening several sectors.

But the Government is not making vaccination mandatory for the general populace, having already announced its intentions for the health and social care sector next year.

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Some private companies have taken matters into their own hands and recently announced new plans for unvaccinated workers.

Clothing retailer Next said unvaccinated employees “pinged” by the NHS app or made to isolate by Test and Trace will receive only statutory sick pay.

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Those who test positive, regardless of their vaccination status, receive full sick pay.

One legal expert revealed that, if they chose, employers recommend their workers get the vaccine.

George Miller, Employment Law Specialist at Richard Nelson LLP, revealed this is legal.

But, he added: “Nobody can be forced to take the vaccine against their will.”

What employers may experience trouble with, he said, is firing their unvaccinated workers.

They could open themselves up to action, especially if they are longtime employees and alternative work arrangements exist.

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Mr Miller said: “If employees with over two years’ service are dismissed for being unvaccinated, they could bring a claim for unfair dismissal.

“In this type of case, the onus would be on the employer to show that dismissal was reasonable in the circumstances.

“This could be difficult without clear evidence showing either that having unvaccinated employees at work was presenting an unacceptable risk to others, and that there were no workable alternatives to dismissal such as other roles or working from home.”

Mr Miller expressed the position is “different with certain employers”, notably the NHS or some trusts.

From April 2022, health and social care workers employed by NHS trusts must have received their Covid vaccines.

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The new law, voted through Parliament in November, applies to people working in NHS and private hospitals, GP surgeries, community services and health or social care organisations regulated by the Care Quality Commission.

Employees who don’t abide by the new rules face dismissal, Mr Miller said.

He said: “If employees in these sectors don’t get vaccinated, their employer will be able to fairly dismiss them as they will not be legally able to continue employing unvaccinated individuals beyond the deadline.”


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