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Can employers only hire new workers who have been vaccinated?

Advice by Alan Price, CEO of BrightHR

Various companies across the UK have said they will consider only making hires if the individual has been vaccinated, prompting whether this is discriminatory.

The first thing that employers should bear in mind is that getting a vaccine for Covid-19 has not been made compulsory by the Government, and indeed there does not seem to be any plans for them to do this. As such, employers technically have no legal basis on which to try and enforce a policy like this, and if they want to do so, they will need to proceed carefully.

It may be easier for certain sectors to argue that this policy is necessary than others. For example, operators in the care sector may want all staff vaccinated if this could limit infection rates in workplaces and help keep both service users and colleagues safe. However, this may be much more difficult to enforce in office-based environments, especially if other mitigating measures, such as social distancing and remote working, can be put in place to minimise the risk of infection.

There is also a discriminatory aspect to consider. We are still months away from a situation where most of the UK’s adult population is vaccinated, meaning deliberately refusing to hire someone based on not yet being jabbed could constitute age discrimination. It should also be remembered that there could be several reasons why individuals do not want to take a vaccine, such as long-term medical conditions that could potentially be considered a disability.

To this end, it is arguably much more advisable for employers to focus on encouraging their staff to take the vaccine, whether they are new to the company or have worked for it already for some time. This could be done in many ways, from awareness days to ensuring they are getting their information on vaccines from verified sources and access to e-learning courses.