“Can I force my employees to get the COVID-19 Vaccination?”

25 AUG 2021


The hot topic at the moment is whether or not employers have the right to require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. 

In the ever changing environment we live in, it is critical employers know their rights and responsibilities when it comes to their employees and vaccines.  

Can employers force their employees to be vaccinated? 

The simple answer is - it depends. 

There is not blanket rule for which employers can and cannot force their employees to be vaccinated. Employers should not assume they can force employees to be vaccinated. 

Vaccination will only be warranted where it is a “lawful and reasonable” direction, and it is reasonably necessary for the employee to carry out the inherit requirements of their role. 

What is lawful and reasonable?  

What will be deemed lawful and reasonable will depend on the circumstances of the employees employment and their day-to-day duties. 

The law around vaccinations makes a clear delineation between a front line healthcare worker and an office worker.  

If an employer wishes to force their employees to vaccinate, they will need to demonstrate why the direction is ‘lawful and reasonable’.  

What do I need to consider? 

Employers should consider a number of factors prior to issuing a direction to force employees to be vaccinated. However, as a general guide, employers should:

  1. Determine whether the vaccine is needed for work health and safety obligations.
  2. Is vaccination an inherent requirement of employment 
  3. Is there any risk for discrimination? 
  4. Are there any alternative arrangements that can be put in place (I.e. remote working). 

Alternative Options 

 If you do not wish to issue a directive, or have concerns that a directive my not be ‘lawful and reasonable’, employers can look at alternatives such as:  

  1. Incentivise employees with a one off reward for getting vaccinated.
  2. Increase other COVID-19 safety measures to promote a safe and healthy workplace environment. 

How can Marsdens help you? 

The COVID-19 vaccine and workplace directives is a complex and ever changing sphere. It is vital that employers seek legal advice before issuing a directive, as there are significant consequences should you get it wrong. 

If you are a business looking for advice or assistance with your workforce, please contact Aaran Johnson or Simon Kumar (contact details below) to discuss how Marsdens can assist you.  

The contents of this publication are for reference purposes only. This publication does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Specific legal advice should always be sought separately before taking any action based on this publication.

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