The coronavirus vaccine is proving to be a success with a lot of people already receiving their first dose. Many employers may wish for their workforce to be vaccinated, however there is no legal right for them to oppose this on their employees. For employees who do wish to be vaccinated they may need time off work to do so. The question is then, are they entitled to time off and are they entitled to be paid?
Generally speaking, employees are not entitled to time off for a medical appointment unless pregnant which contains other legal rights in itself. The contract of employment is the go-to for employees to determine what they are entitled to and whether any time off is paid. Sometimes standalone policies have information in place for employees to refer to for situations like time off for a vaccine. In the employment contract there is an implied term of trust and confidence, which enforces an obligation on both the employee and employer to not act in any way that would ‘destroy or seriously damage the relationship.’ If an employee is refused time off work to get something which is extremely topical right now amid the pandemic, a tribunal may see this as a breach of this implied term of trust and confidence.
This could go even further. If the employee has had two years of service and resigns stating they were constructively dismissed, and the public hear of a business refusing the time off, this could cause a lot of negative backlash which is not great in a time where businesses are struggling.
As part of the UK ensuring they have a diverse and inclusive workforce, many employees may be classified as disabled under the Equality Act 2010 and therefore entitled to reasonable adjustments from their employer. If an employer does not agree to an employee taking time off to receive the vaccine, then this could lead to a discrimination case in the tribunal. It is therefore important for employers to remain flexible and understanding. Where it might not be an explicit right for an employee to have time off for the vaccine, it might be useful to adhere to this to try to create a sense of normality surrounding it.