Legal experts warn family businesses about the pitfalls of ‘no jab’ policies

Network partner, Cartmell Shepherd Solicitors are warning family businesses about the potential pitfalls surrounding adopting any policy that prohibits staff from returning to the office if they haven’t been double jabbed.

The warning follows news that the Government is introducing regulations meaning all staff at registered care homes will have to prove they have received both jabs, or they can no longer work there.

While it will be the law in England from November 11 for all staff and volunteers in registered care home settings to show proof they have received both Covid-19 vaccinations to enable them to continue working there, unless clinically exempt, companies across other sectors need to be aware that introducing similar models for their employees could potentially lead to legal challenges.

Joanne Stronach, Head of Employment Law and HR at Cartmell Shepherd Solicitors, is raising awareness of the new regulations being introduced for care homes by the Government as part of its work towards reducing the devastating effect of the Coronavirus pandemic, particularly among the most vulnerable members of society.

There is a concern that other businesses will follow the lead of care homes and dismiss workers who refuse to be jabbed – but this could land these companies in trouble as there will be no law for the employer to rely on as the fair reason for the dismissal.

Joanne said: “Just because there’s a law for care homes saying all staff need to be double vaccinated, other employers who decide to have a blanket ban on employing those who haven’t had their jabs run the risks of unfair dismissal, discrimination and breach of human rights claims.

“In fact, if you force somebody to be vaccinated against their will then it can also be classed as assault, so there are a lot of risks around this.

“Somebody may not want to be vaccinated on religious grounds or they’re pregnant and they’re worried about any risks to the baby. Dismissing them from their employment could open the employer up to a whole load of legal issues.

“Companies have to be careful about what models they adopt and make sure their actions are within the law.”

Joanne is also raising awareness of the new regulations for care homes which may be in the dark about details of the proposals, and the wider implications for other businesses.

All those working or volunteering in a care home setting, including those not in direct contact with residents such as catering or laundry staff, will need to have both vaccinations before November 11 in order to continue working there, and not just frontline care staff as first thought.

In addition to staff, any visiting tradespeople carrying out routine maintenance or annual servicing work will also need to prove they have been vaccinated before being allowed to enter the home. However, those carrying out urgent maintenance work, to repair leaks, floods, power cuts etc, will be permitted without being jabbed.

To further complicate matters, residents and visiting friends and relatives don’t need to be vaccinated, and neither do those attending the home in an emergency (ambulance, police, fire and rescue service for example).

Joanne said: “The Government wants to protect the country from Covid-19 and those living in care homes are identified as some of the most vulnerable to the virus. But the legislation is a tricky one to understand fully, and care homes and people who carry out work there need to be fully aware of what the rules mean for them.

“It’s not just going to impact care home staff as visiting hairdressers, beauticians, and other services will have to make sure they send people who have been double jabbed to be able to undertake work there.

“The regulations and operational guidance have far wider reaching potential than people realise, and that is why we are on hand at Cartmell Shepherd Solicitors to provide all the help we can to help businesses understand the new law.”

Cartmell Shepherd Solicitors has six offices across Cumbria and Northumberland including Brampton, Penrith, Cockermouth, Haltwhistle, and two in Carlisle.

Its team can advise on all aspects of Employment Law, and staff members are on hand to answer all queries from businesses on the impact of the new regulations on them or relating to staff who refuse to be double vaccinated.

Joanne Stronach, Head of Employment Law and HR, can be contacted at joanne.stronach@cartmells.co.uk.

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