The government is yet to publish any guidance on vaccination for employers. The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service’s (ACAS) guidance simply states that employers should support staff in getting the covid-19 vaccine, but they cannot force staff to be vaccinated.
There is no general right in law for an employee to have time off for medical appointments. Employees should check their employment contracts and any relevant polices which may allow time off to attend medical appointments and what the position is in respect of pay.
In the event the employee does not have an express right to time off, each employment contract has an implied term of trust and confidence which creates an obligation on both the employer and the employee not to conduct themselves unreasonably. In circumstances where an employer unreasonably refuses an employee’s request for time off to receive the vaccination, it is possible for that employee to argue that such a refusal constitutes a fundamental breach of trust and confidence.
The vaccine is currently being rolled out to frontline health and social care workers and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals.
It is of course crucial for health and social care workers to be vaccinated to protect themselves and those in their care.
Employees who are clinically extremely vulnerable may also be classed as disabled under the Equality Act 2010, in which case allowing those employees time off during working hours to be vaccinated could be classed as a ‘reasonable adjustment’ and an employer’s failure to facilitate the same could give rise to claims for disability discrimination.
In any event, employers may still be obliged to promote vaccination in order to ensure they are complying with their obligations under health and safety legislation to provide a safe place of work. Helping to facilitate the vaccination of staff will minimise the risk of covid-19 transmission in the workplace.