British businesses requiring their employees to receive COVID-19 vaccines will face potential legal actions over discrimination, the co-chairman of the UK government’s flexible working taskforce has warned.
Peter Cheese, who also serves as chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), said he would “strongly caution companies against adopting a ‘jabs for jobs’ principle or policy.”
He said the policy is “fraught with lots of potential discrimination and legal issues” and is therefore on “shaky legal ground.”
“There are valid reasons why people may not want to take a vaccination and employers have to understand and accept that,” he told The Telegraph.
“Some of this will get tested in courts of law because it’s a relatively new phenomenon. That’s the risk companies are facing.”
Last week, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), the UK’s equalities watchdog, urged businesses to be “proportionate” and “non-discriminatory” when considering adopting vaccine mandates for their staff.
“Employers are right to want to protect their staff and their customers, particularly in contexts where people are at risk, such as care homes,” said an EHRC spokesman.
“However, requirements must be proportionate, non-discriminatory, and make provision for those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.”
The UK Parliament approved legislation in July to introduce compulsory CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus vaccinations for care home staff in England.
From the autumn, anyone working in a Care Quality Commission-registered care home in England must have two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine unless they have a medical exemption.
Some British businesses have adopted similar policies. Pimlico Plumbers said in June that it will enforce a “no jab, no job” recruitment policy.
Some government ministers have been openly sympathetic to such actions. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on July 29 that he thought it was “smart policy” for companies to insist on vaccinations.
But Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he didn’t support a “jabs for jobs” policy.
He said he could see a case for vaccine passports for international travel and mass events, but didn’t agree with its use for day-to-day access to workplace, health services, or restaurants.
In response to media queries, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said it welcomes firms’ efforts to encourage vaccine take-up among their staff members, and will need to consider legal implications.
“While we would welcome employers encouraging their staff to be vaccinated, employers who propose to check the vaccination status of staff will need to consider how this fits with their legal obligations under employment, equalities, data protection, and health and safety law,” a government spokesperson said on July 30 in a statement emailed to NTD, sister media outlet of The Epoch Times.
PA contributed to this report.