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Can you be forced to take the Covid vaccine by your employer?

Nicola Sturgeon says data about vaccine supplies will be published

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The coronavirus vaccine is being given to thousands of people every day. As a higher proportion of the UK population is vaccinated, there is early evidence suggesting the vaccine is slowing the rate of deaths in older people. But can employers make the coronavirus vaccine mandatory for all its existing and new workers?

Almost two million people in Britain have not worked for at least two months, of which an estimated 500,000 have been fully furloughed and not working any hours.

A further 700,000 workers had been unemployed for at least six months in January, according to the think tank Resolution Foundation.

Some people have moved between unemployment and full furlough in recent months and therefore the total number who were unemployed or fully furloughed in January and had been so for at least six months was actually 1.9 million.

This means millions of people will potentially be looking for new work at the beginning of May when the furlough scheme ends – and they may be unable to get a job if they have refused the coronavirus vaccine.

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland has said it may be legal for companies to insist on new staff being vaccinated as a condition of their employment.

However, he said it is unlikely bosses could make existing workers have the vaccine.

This would be deemed as discrimination according to Downing Street.

Some companies can refuse to hire staff if they have refused the jab.

Mr Buckland said mandating all new staff be inoculated could be theoretically possible.

Employees could refuse this order and this would then require employers to take legal action.

The Justice Secretary told ITV: “I think that has to be the case because we’re dealing with existing terms of contracts of employment, thousands of existing contracts.”

He added that the legality of “no jab, no job” would depend “very much on the terms of employment and the particular contract”.

Mr Buckland said: “Generally speaking I’d be surprised if there were contracts of employment existing now that did make that approach lawful. I think frankly the issue would have to be tested.”

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One of Britain’s largest health care groups Barchester Healthcare and plumbing company Pimlico Plumbers have said they will not hire new employees if they have refused the jab.

These firms said the only exception will be those who have medical exemptions for refusing the vaccine.

Some groups of people cannot get the COVID-19 vaccine including people with severe allergies, who are pregnant, who have tested positive for coronavirus, and children or adolescents.

Pimlico Plumbers founder Charlie Mullins told Channel 4 News: “More and more businesses are saying the same things.

“We’ve already had the contracts drawn up, lawyers are very happy with them.

“They say it’s legal under health and safety laws and we have an obligation to protect our staff and our customers.”

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Taking a vaccine is not mandatory and it would be discriminatory to force somebody to take one.”

Louise Hooper of Garden Court Chambers explained current legislation makes it clear the Government does not have power to “include mandatory treatment or vaccination”.

Ms Hooper said: “Powers to make regulations in England and Wales are made under and subject to the restrictions in the 1984 Act.

“The Coronavirus Act 2020 introduces separate powers for Scotland and Northern Ireland to make health protection law under their devolved powers.

“These ensure that a similar prohibition on powers requiring mandatory medical treatment including vaccination and other prophylactic treatment is in force.”

However, there is legal precedent for companies to insist all new staff members are vaccinated as a condition of their employment.

In the UK so far, 15,940,972 people have received the first dose of the Covid vaccination.

A further 558,5777 people have received their second jab.

Of these cases, 364,865 first doses and 12,412 second doses were administered on February 16.

The Government has set a target of vaccinating a further 17 million people from the vaccination priority list by mid-April.

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