Forcing employees to have jab described as a legal minefield
Staff can't be compelled to take vaccine
Wandsworth and Richmond councils will not make their staff take the coronavirus vaccine.
The issue was discussed at last Tuesday night’s Shared Staffing Committee (23 February).
Wandsworth Council leader Ravi Govindia raised concerns about what the council will do if staff refuse to work with colleagues who have not been vaccinated.
Mike Gravatt, Assistant Director of Resources, said the issue is “a legal minefield.”
He added, “We’re not going to be requiring staff to tell us that they’ve had a vaccine. Whether or not they choose to tell their colleagues that they choose to not have a vaccine, I think is an issue that will be ahead of us.
“I’d be surprised if we don’t have some issues along those lines, how we will deal with them. I think we will need to treat each case on its merits.
“We can’t compel staff to have the vaccine, we can ultimately compel staff to come into work regardless of that situation. But clearly we’d want to be finding a way through that.”
He said he expected the issue to come up later in the autumn, when staff are likely to be back “in more close proximity to colleagues.”
The Government’s Justice Secretary Robert Buckland has said making new staff get a vaccine could, in theory, be possible if it was written into their contracts.
But he added it is unlikely bosses could make existing workers have vaccines under their current contracts.
Lawyers have also said that demanding staff are vaccinated would be unlawful in most circumstances and could lead to discrimination and unfair dismissal claims.
Although, if a vaccine or test was seen as “critical” for someone’s job, such as care home workers, there could be exceptions.
Some businesses such as London-based Pimlico Plumbers have already said that when vaccines are readily available all new workers will have to have one, unless they cannot for medical reasons.
Councillors were also informed that the Local Government Association had received notification of 68 deaths in service due to coronavirus from 21 London Councils.
Anecdotally, the report said one borough had at least 15 deaths in service.
However, Richmond and Wandsworth Councils have been fortunate to date with no deaths amongst its directly employed staff.
Sian Bayley - Local Democracy Reporter
February 25, 2021