Ethical dilemma: Can employers insist on Covid-19 vaccinations?

Ethical dilemma: Can employers insist on Covid-19 vaccinations?

Excerpted from Personnel Today By Ashleigh Webber

As the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine receives approval from the UK medicines regulator, to what degree can employers insist that staff are vaccinated before returning to the workplace? Ashleigh Webber examines the ethical arguments.

The news that three effective Covid-19 vaccinations have been developed – and one approved in the UK – has come as a relief to business leaders and HR teams. Finally, there is a glimmer of hope that normal operations could soon resume and employers will be able to safely bring more staff back into workplaces.

Many organisations will be keen to encourage employees to get a vaccine if it is offered to them, although the government has been clear that vaccination will not be a legal requirement when it becomes widely available.

But, while having a high proportion of vaccinated staff would be advantageous for employers, it is also clear that not every worker will want to be vaccinated.

Not only will some employees place themselves within the ‘anti-vaxxer’ community, there are a raft of reasons why staff might not want one – from religion and philosophical belief, to simply wanting to wait until any side effects are more widely understood.

Thus, a dilemma emerges: is it ethical for employers to request that staff are vaccinated before they return to the office?

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