Businesses and organisations following the lead of a major plumbing firm in demanding its staff have Covid vaccinations should consider the move carefully to ensure they do not leave themselves open to legal challenge, according to a leading employment law expert.

Jodie Sinclair, Head of the Employment, Immigration and Pensions team at national law firm Bevan Brittan, was speaking after Pimlico Plumbers said it would introduce ‘no jab, no job’ contracts for its 400-strong workforce.

The policy, if introduced, would require all of the firm’s workers to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

However, Jodie urged all other organisations looking at how they manage employees who may or may not have the vaccine to consider their position carefully before taking a similar stance.

“Introducing changes of this nature to the terms and conditions of existing staff is not so simple,” she said.

“Any material changes, such as a blanket requirement for staff to be vaccinated, should be carefully considered and managed, with appropriate communication, consultation and risk assessments being carried out, before simply imposing such terms.

“Any one-sided imposition of changes to existing contracts without these steps is likely to create significant litigation risk for employers.”  

Jodie added: “Employers can of course decide to include a requirement for new staff to have the Covid-19 vaccine as a precondition to commencing employment with the organisation, similar to any new employment being subject to other conditions such as occupational health and/or reference clearance checks.

“This might set a particular ‘tone’ for any organisation in terms of their wider engagement and culture, but there may well be certain sectors, where such a clause is considered appropriate and necessary.”

She continued: “In the current difficult times, it is even more important for employers to undertake and record risk assessments, have a clear rationale for the proposal to require staff to have the Covid-19 vaccine, and to consult and communicate with employees in order to seek their agreement to the proposal.”  

Bevan Brittan’s Employment, Pensions & Immigration practice has continued to grow its profile and client base in the past 12 months, including in sectors such as independent health and social care, housing, higher education, commercial services, central and local government and in insurance and finance, as well as working with the NHS.

If you have any questions or require legal advice on a specific scenario, please contact Jodie Sinclair.

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