‘Can I force my employees to have the vaccine?’ - Sheffield lawyer answers awkward Covid questions

‘What do I do if an employee wants to continue working from home?’ and ‘How should I make people redundant?’

Friday, 19th February 2021, 4:51 pm

These are just a few of the questions a Sheffield employment law firm has handled as bosses attempt to live with Covid (see answers below).

Bhayani HR & Employment Law has helped hundreds of businesses over the last year – much of it free - and has been awarded a UK Business Hero accolade from the British Chambers of Commerce in recognition of its work.

Now it is organising free virtual workshops in March and April to keep up with demand for answers to all those awkward questions.

Sign up to our Business newsletter

Sign up to our Business newsletter

Jay Bhayani, solicitor and MD of Bhayani HR & Employment Law.

Boss Jay Bhayani said: “We have been inundated with enquiries, which is completely understandable at this very difficult time.

“It’s really important for companies to start thinking about how they will re-engage furloughed staff, what sort of workforce they need going forward, plan redundancies where necessary and think about all the awkward questions including whether they can force employees to have the vaccine.

“We want to roll these free workshops out every two weeks with a maximum 20 people so that they can be interactive and really practical.”

The firm also says sales of ‘Watertight’, its fixed-fee HR and employment service, have grown 93 per cent in the last year.

To access the free virtual workshops - ‘HR and employment law in the COVID world’ - call 0114 303 2300 or email [email protected] or visit www.bhayanilaw.co.uk

Answers to awkward questions:

Can I force my employees to have the vaccine?

You cannot force employees to have the vaccine, but you may be able to take action against an employee who unreasonably refuses. In determining that, you should consider a risk assessment to determine the risk an unvaccinated employee would pose to clients, customers and colleagues.

This will be heavily influenced by the sector you work in. You also need to consider why the employee is refusing as the reason may be medical or covered by discrimination legislation.

You can encourage all employees to be vaccinated by providing the most up-to-date and reliable information on the vaccine and you may want to consider offering paid time off for vaccine appointments.

If you are planning to take action against an employee whom you believe is unreasonably refusing the vaccine, you should obtain legal advice first.

What do I do if an employee wants to continue working from home?

Carefully consider the reasons why an employee wishes to continue to work from home and balance this against the business needs. You should always adhere to the most up to date Government guidance.

An employee may have childcare issues or have a health condition which makes them more vulnerable. Conducting risk assessments and ensuring that your place of work has good practises and is Covid-secure may help an anxious employee feel better about returning. Employees are entitled to make a flexible working request if they wish to apply for long term home working. If you still feel that an employee is unreasonably refusing to return to the workplace you can consider taking further action.

How and when should I make people redundant?

Redundancies should always be well thought out and planned to make sure that the correct legal process is being followed. A failure to follow a fair procedure can lead to claims in the Employment Tribunal for unfair dismissal, wrongful dismissal, failure to consult, discrimination and pay claims.

You need to consider how many roles are affected as there are minimum consultation periods and rules as to who you need to consult with and notify, as well as the employees.

You can no longer claim furlough payments for any period when an employee is serving notice and neither can furlough payments be claimed for statutory redundancy payments. You can find further information on the ACAS website.

Do I have to send a new letter every time hours of work change when I have an employee on flexible furlough?

No but you do need to make sure that your existing furlough agreement contains as much detail as possible about possible shift patterns or hours of work required.

You may not know exactly what the business demand will be but you should try and give employees as much notice as possible as to when and where you will expect them to work.

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a digital subscription or buying a paper.

We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.