The UK government has not legislated to make the vaccine compulsory. The element of choice in deciding whether to have a vaccine presents employers with difficulties. Employers looking for effective COVID-19 control measures for their business will undoubtedly be keen for their workforce to be vaccinated as soon as possible, particularly in sectors where employees work in close proximity to vulnerable people.
Employers cannot physically force an employee to take the vaccine and, as the vaccine is not (currently) commercially available, employers cannot actually control access to or make an employee take the vaccine. However, employers can strongly encourage employees to be vaccinated and, in certain sectors (such as health and social care) and close contact services, employers may be able to issue a reasonable instruction that they should do so, in order to protect the public, stakeholders and co-workers. However, taking disciplinary action or even dismissing an employee for failing to be vaccinated is not straightforward, as we discuss below.
This Howden and DWF article provides further guidance.
Also, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) is extended by a month and is currently intended to finish at the end of April 2021. This announcement also included two ancillary – but important – points for employers to note:
i) The proposed January review of the CJRS – and in particular the employer contribution required – has been undertaken already to allow businesses to plan ahead for the remainder of the winter.
ii) The date of the 2021 Budget has now also been set for 3rd March 2021. This detail is actually rather important for employers using the CJRS, as any announced Budget changes to the scheme will be known well in advance of the end of the current scheme. Read the full update from Howden.
COVID-19 vaccine considerations for the United Kingdom
- Can employers mandate the vaccine?
This is a complex issue and employers will need to consult with their legal adviser(s) ahead of making any decisions.
- Who will control delivery of the vaccine?
Public health service as of 1/25/21, but this is subject to change
- Who covers the cost of the vaccine?
Public health service
- Where will people get vaccinated?
Depending on location, vaccines are being offered in some hospitals, GPs, vaccination centres, mobile units and pharmacies. Full details are available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-vaccination-why-you-are-being-asked-to-wait/why-you-have-to-wait-for-your-covid-19-vaccine
- Is there cultural resistance to getting the vaccine?
See information below
Where will people get vaccinated?
Across the United Kingdom, the roll-out of the vaccine differs in each of the four countries. The UK Government has produced further information on this subject.
- In England, the vaccine is being offered in some hospitals and pharmacies, at local vaccination centers run by GPs, and at larger vaccination centers. More centers are opening all the time.
- In Northern Ireland, this does differ slightly and depending on your age group, dependencies/vulnerabilities, the COVID-19 vaccination program is currently being delivered via Trust vaccination sites and GP Practices.
- In Wales, again is different, and depends on age, health, and vulnerabilities – the vaccine can be delivered across vaccination centers, GP Practices, Mobile Units as well as in Care-Homes / at home.
- Vaccinations are taking place differently across Scotland to reflect the needs of local communities. The coronavirus vaccination (jab, injection) may not take place at a GP practice and NHS Scotland will confirm local arrangements. NHS Scotland will try and arrange for people to be vaccinated at the nearest location to their home but this might not always be possible. At present, more than 1100 vaccination venues are now operational throughout Scotland.
Is there cultural resistance to getting the vaccine?
There is a tiered and structured approach to the roll-out of the vaccine. All adults in the United Kingdom will be offered the vaccine through 2021. There may be a wide number of reasons for vaccine resistance/hesitancy and this will naturally depend on various factors and personal decisions. This is therefore why it is not compulsory to be vaccinated (though different occupations may require someone to be vaccinated in order to carry out an occupation, and legal advice should be obtained on this issue) and will be up to individuals whether they agree or not to be vaccinated.
The information on this website is intended to be helpful and is up to date as of the date of posting. However, the unprecedented Covid pandemic means that information is changing very quickly, often daily, and the information herein is not intended to be a substitute for individual legal or medical advice, or as a substitute for advice in your specific situation.
This information is provided by Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing, Asinta's partner in the United Kingdom.
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Page last modified: March 14, 2021
The information presented on this site is current as of the date initially posted; and, because matters related to COVID-19, the vaccine, and compliance measures are changing so quickly, it may not be current as of the date you read it. While the information gathered here is from Asinta global partners who are subject matter experts in their respective fields, this information is not meant to be a substitute for individual legal or medical advice, or as a substitute for advice in your specific situation.