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It’s become one of the year’s hottest topics. I’m talking about making decisions on whether as an employer you should, or indeed could, insist on your employees getting a Covid-19 vaccination.

In recent weeks, many business owners and senior managers have started to assess the legal dilemmas. These are around employee rights and employer responsibilities if an employee declines to be vaccinated.

Protect your workforce

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 obliges employers to take reasonable steps to reduce any workplace risks; this duty gives employers justification for encouraging their employees to be vaccinated to protect themselves and everyone else at the workplace. COVID-19 is also a reportable disease under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (known as RIDDOR) which may strengthen your encouragement that employees should agree to vaccination.

Sensitivity is essential

It’s worth pointing out here that vaccination is a very sensitive issue for some people. There are many who strongly disagree with it and not everyone will see it as clear cut as you. You need to remember that as an employer, whilst you are obviously responsible for your employees’ health and wellbeing whilst they are at work, that does not extend to making decisions medical decisions on their behalf.

Encouragement not insistence

It’s understandable why employers are keen for their staff to be vaccinated, but the law is clear. Employers cannot insist that employees are vaccinated, unless the circumstances are exceptional, i.e., they are social care and/or other key health workers.

Essentially you should encourage your employees to have the vaccination. This can be done through communication, engagement and of course sharing the benefits through the provision of factual, and impartial, public health information. You also need to be aware that some people will make their decision based on the need to protect themselves and their colleagues, so will opt for the vaccination.

However, there may be others who are less sure and would prefer to continue to use PPE, adopt strict social distancing rules and/or work from home. For these employees, you need to ensure that any alternative working arrangements are agreed and responsibilities are made clear.

Consultation and communications

It may be late Autumn until everyone in the country has been offered the vaccine, so you need to be pragmatic. If you want to introduce new changes such as requiring employees to be vaccinated as a condition for returning to work, then you need to take the time to consult with them and try to reach an agreement. Any agreement should be put in writing and may become part of your workplace policy going forwards.

It’s also important to consider contractors or visitors to your premises. They will need to fall into whatever policy you adopt and be communicated with too.


If you want to encourage staff to be vaccinated, you may want to try to make it as easy as possible for them. This could be done by offering paid time off so they can be vaccinated. There may also be other incentives that you could offer.

For more information, we refer you to the CIPD’s guide for employers in how to prepare for the COVID-19 vaccination. To download a copy, click here.

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