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Equalities watchdog cautions employers amid ‘no jab, no job’ policy concerns

·3-min read
A nurse preparing a Covid-19 vaccine (Nick Potts/PA) (PA Wire)
A nurse preparing a Covid-19 vaccine (Nick Potts/PA) (PA Wire)

Employers have been cautioned by the equalities watchdog to be “proportionate” and “non-discriminatory”, amid concerns over the prospect of “no jab, no job” policies emerging.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said it understood firms will want to protect their staff and their customers by requiring employees to be vaccinated, but it advises them to take other factors into consideration.

In the United States, tech giants Facebook and Google are among those to say their employees would have to show proof they have been fully vaccinated before returning to work.

In the UK, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has suggested it is a good idea for people to be double jabbed before returning to the office but it will not be required by legislation.

An EHRC spokesman said: “Employers are right to want to protect their staff and their customers, particularly in contexts where people are at risk, such as care homes.

“However, requirements must be proportionate, non-discriminatory and make provision for those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.”

Professor Stephen Reicher, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (Spi-B), which advises the Government also told The Guardian that making vaccines mandatory may be reasonable for those in jobs where they are responsible for the physical care of others, but the negatives outweighed the benefits for other employers.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps (Kirsty O’Connor/PA) (PA Wire)
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps (Kirsty O’Connor/PA) (PA Wire)

He told the newspaper: “It is far better and more effective to secure vaccination through engagement rather than through imposition.”

Mr Shapps, asked if it is a good idea for people to have the two vaccine doses before they go back to the office, told Sky News: “Yes it is a good idea and yes some companies will require it.

“We are not going to make that legislation that every adult has to be double vaccinated before they go back to the office, but yes it is a good idea and yes some companies will require it.”

(PA Graphics) (PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics) (PA Graphics)

Parliament earlier this month approved legislation to introduce compulsory Covid-19 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.

But the impact of such a policy on jobs is not fully understood by the Government.

The Government’s own best estimate suggests around 40,000 care home staff risk being lost as a result of compulsory Covid-19 vaccinations, adding it could cost the industry £100 million to replace.

The number represents 7% of the profession’s 570,000-strong workforce and is the “midpoint” between the upper and lower estimates of 70,000 (12%) and 17,000 (3%) respectively.

But the Government has yet to compile a full impact assessment of the policy, something which annoyed several Tory MPs earlier this month when they discussed the policy.

(PA Graphics) (PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics) (PA Graphics)

On Friday, Health Minister Helen Whately, in response to a written parliamentary question, maintained the assessment will be “published shortly”.

Elsewhere, the Government also acknowledged it does not hold information on the number of people who have deleted the NHS Covid-19 app, instead using other metrics to assess its usage.

Data published earlier this week showed the number of people being told to self-isolate reached another record, with almost 700,000 alerts sent to Covid app users in England and Wales.

The so-called “pingdemic” has raised concerns over people deleting the app in a bid to avoid isolation should they be judged a close contact of someone who has tested positive for coronavirus.

Layla Moran, Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, asked Health Secretary Sajid Javid via a written parliamentary question: “What estimate the Government has made of the number of people who have deleted the NHS Covid-19 application after installing it?”

Health Minister Jo Churchill replied: “We have made no specific estimate as this information is not currently held.

“We are considering what further metrics we may be able to publish about app usage.”

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