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Care worker fairly dismissed for unreasonably refusing the Covid-19 vaccine

In January 2021, a small nursing home decided that due to the situation and the conditions of the pandemic at the time, they would require all their staff to be vaccinated against covid-19 if they were providing close personal care to vulnerable residents. However, one care assistant refused to be vaccinated due to concerns around whether the vaccine was safe. The nursing home considered this was not a reasonable refusal in light of the situation at the time, namely the recent outbreak and deaths at the nursing home, and there was a lot of publicity and advice available relating to the safety of the vaccine. The care assistant was summarily dismissed for unreasonably refusing to receive the covid-19 vaccine, so brought claims for unfair dismissal and wrongful dismissal.

The employment tribunal decided the dismissal was fair in the circumstances, and refusing to comply with the management instruction to be vaccinated amounted to gross misconduct. Therefore, there was no case of unfair dismissal or wrongful dismissal.

The tribunal also decided that whilst the requirement to make the vaccine compulsory unless there was a reasonable excuse interfered with the worker’s right to privacy, the interference was justified. This was because the employer’s policy aimed to protect the health and safety of their residents, staff and visitors.