Companies that adopt “jabs for jobs” policies risk a wave of discrimination lawsuits, the co-chairman of Boris Johnson’s flexible working taskforce has warned.
Peter Cheese told The Telegraph that he would urge caution for companies who were considering adopting compulsory vaccination programmes for their employees.
He also said it was possible that some firms would adopt different mask-wearing rules on different floors of their offices to accommodate the varying Covid concerns of workers.
Internet giants Google and Facebook have all announced that staff must be fully vaccinated before returning to their offices, with some British firms looking to follow suit. Netflix has also requested that cast and crew working on TV and film productions are vaccinated.
Mr Cheese is chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and chairs the Government’s flexible working taskforce with Paul Scully, the business minister.
Speaking in his CIPD role, Mr Cheese said: “I would strongly caution companies against adopting a ‘jabs for jobs’ principle or policy.
"It’s fraught with lots of potential discrimination and legal issues. It is shaky legal ground.
“It also isn’t very inclusive. There are valid reasons why people may not want to take a vaccination and employers have to understand and accept that.
“Some of this will get tested in courts of law because it’s a relatively new phenomenon. That’s the risk companies are facing.”
Mr Cheese said given that even the double-jabbed could catch Covid, it was likely companies would continue to keep in place Covid-safe rules, such as face masks, plastic screen separators and the encouragement of social distancing.
He raised the possibility that some companies could choose to have different rules on different floors of their offices to accommodate how employees feel about such restrictions.
Concerns about the legal implications of employers mandating vaccines if employees wish to return to work are also shared by some lawyers.
David Sheppard, a senior associate in Capital Law's employment and immigration team, which advises employers on Covid vaccination policies at work, expressed such concerns.
Mr Sheppard told The Telegraph: “Imposing a policy of only vaccinated people being allowed without certain exceptions into work is fraught with legal risk.
“It may well be proportionate in certain high-risk work settings but disproportionate in others, where current Covid-secure measures may sufficiently manage risk of transmission of the virus.
“A disproportionate policy could expose employers to discrimination claims, human rights complaints and data protection complications in gathering and maintaining sensitive medical information about employees.
“It is possible tens of thousands of pounds in compensation could be paid out in successful legal challenges if employers get this wrong, particularly if collective claims are brought, together with significant legal costs in defending claims.”
Pimlico Plumbers has said it will enforce a “no jab, no job” recruitment policy, while Google has said it would require full vaccination from all its 144,000 staff globally.
Asked last week if the Prime Minister supported the stance, a Number 10 spokesman said: “You would have to speak to the individual employers about their own policies.”
Tony Danker, the director general of the Confederation of British Industry, has said he is against mandatory jabs for workers.
Mr Danker said: “We don't believe in compulsory vaccination, but how can we help, either through promotion or logistical support or information support to help complete the vaccination programme.”