"No jab, no job"
- By James Ferguson
Pimlico Plumbing supremo Charlie Mullins is no stranger to controversy having previously taken the question of when an “employee” is self-employed all the way to the UK Supreme Court. Having lost that battle, Pimlico recently announced its intention to rewrite its contracts of employment to require all staff to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
It does give rise to an interesting debate. There is, however, no statutory provision whereby an individual can be forced to get a vaccine.
Indeed, Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) states:
1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic wellbeing of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
This would cover mandatory vaccination and, before you ask, is not affected by Brexit. The ECHR is an international treaty, freestanding of the EU, to which the UK is a signatory. It was incorporated into domestic law by the Human Rights Act 1998.
In any event, medical intervention would require express consent, freely given. Before administering a vaccine, the subject must give their informed and voluntary consent. It is conceivable that an individual may hold legitimate ethical or religious reservations. Further, issues relating to disability may arise. A policy of forced vaccination could give rise to proceedings before an employment tribunal and may constitute a criminal offence under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.
A cynic might suggest that Pimlico’s announcement was intended to attract publicity. If so, it has succeeded. The latest Government advice is:
There is a chance you might still get or spread coronavirus even if you have the vaccine.
This being the case, whether or not your plumber has had the jab may not mitigate the risk of inviting them into your home.
Applying the philosophy that you catch more flies with honey if you are married to the concept of workplace vaccination, providing employees with impartial, factual data to make their own decisions may be the way forward.
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