UK watchdog warns employers over ‘no jab, no job’ policies

Equalities and Human Rights Commission says companies must avoid discrimination.

UK watchdog warns employers over ‘no jab, no job’ policies

LONDON — An equality watchdog has warned British employers to be careful about adopting blanket bans on unvaccinated workers, amid a growing debate on “no jab, no job” policies in the U.K and worldwide.

The warning came from the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which oversees the application of equality and non-discrimination laws in the U.K.

“Employers are right to want to protect their staff and their customers — particularly in contexts where people are at risk, such as care homes. However, requirements must be proportionate, non-discriminatory and make provision for those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons,” a spokesperson for the commission said via email.

The commission’s statement comes after multiple large corporations such as Google and Facebook said they would restrict office access to employees in the United States who have not been vaccinated against the coronavirus. In the U.K., a major London plumbing firm, Pimlico Plumbers, has been among the first to say it will require employees to be fully vaccinated.

Firms in the financial sector such as Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan have required employees to report their vaccination status.

British government ministers have said it makes sense for employees to be double-vaccinated before returning to their workplaces but they will not legislate to make it compulsory.

The U.K.’s Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), an industry association for human resources professionals, said refusing employment or basing access to work on vaccination status could be “an intrusion on an employee’s body and may discriminate on the basis of disability, or religious or philosophical belief.”

Current U.K. law protects against such forms of discrimination, but amendments were made to oblige care home employees to be vaccinated.

Guidance from the CIPD published this month warned companies could be liable for claims of abuse and even criminal complaints if they impose vaccines on workers. “Enforced vaccination would be a criminal offence against the person and an unlawful injury leading to claims such as assault and battery,” the CIPD said.

A spokesperson for the institute said that it was “very problematic for employers to force it [vaccination] legally on a number of grounds especially for existing employees who could claim unfair dismissal.”

The spokesperson said insisting on vaccination could be “less problematic for new starters” but is “still not advisable — aside from other issues, any employee no matter how long length of service could claim discrimination.”

Even the new laws mandating care home vaccination did not guarantee claims would not be brought, although “employers will have that legislation to rely on,” the spokesperson said.

“It’s complicated and employers are exposing themselves to legal claims down the line. Much better to encourage than mandate,” the spokesperson added.