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Can we enforce the Covid-19 vaccine in a dental practice?

At present the Covid-19 vaccine is voluntary for all individuals, including healthcare workers, however, there is much speculation about whether this may change in the future. It has been alleged that NHS executives are debating making the vaccine mandatory for frontline healthcare workers.

It is recommended that all practices encourage their team members to have the Covid-19 vaccine and provide additional supporting information where concerns are raised, to help the individual make an informed decision in relation to their professional responsibility and duty. All concerns should be listened to accordingly and due consideration should be given to each person’s circumstance. Whereby time off work is required to have the vaccine, practices should be as supportive and flexible as possible.

You are likely to have heard the news reports regarding companies enforcing new starters to have the vaccine as a condition of their engagement. There has been much speculation about whether this would be lawful and how this may be dealt with by the courts should the matter be taken further.

In particular, this has raised concerns about successful claims of discrimination on the grounds of race, religion or belief should the vaccine be refused for these reasons. There have also been fears of pregnancy and maternity discrimination claims from individuals who have chosen not to have or been advised not to have the vaccine due to this. Disability discrimination has been another worrying claim to be raised for individuals who are not having the vaccine due to a medical condition. Finally, concerns about age discrimination claims have also been ignited as young people are having to wait longer to receive the vaccination. These factors should be taken into consideration by practices before choosing how to proceed, especially as there is no limit on the amount to be paid to individuals for a successful discrimination claim.

Some companies have also considered making the vaccine mandatory for existing team members. This should be completed by amending and updating the team members’ contracts with the practice. In addition to the above claims, for existing employees, there are risks of unfair dismissal and constructive unfair dismissal claims should employees be required to have the vaccine without consenting and agreeing to the change in their contracts of employment.

Overall, it is unlikely that until this type of situation reaches an employment tribunal, or a court in relation to self-employed team members, that there will be a definitive answer about the risk factors involved.

At Agilio, we are keeping a close eye on any updates to this guidance and will continue to keep members fully informed of the latest changes as they develop.

Read more Covid-19 articles from Agilio here.