COVID-19 AND UNFAIR DISMISSAL CLAIMS

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The ongoing Coronavirus pandemic has left employers with many questions such as:

  • Can we ask employees to reveal whether or not they have received the vaccination?
  • What action should we take if an employee refuses the vaccination when it is offered?
  • Can we dismiss an employee who refuses to come into the workplace due to Covid concerns?

Unfortunately, there are often no simple answers and, perhaps unsurprisingly, we are starting to see reports of cases being taken to the courts and employment tribunals.

One such case involved a laser cutter operator claiming he had been dismissed for refusing to return to the workplace and that this was an automatically unfair dismissal as his refusal was due to the fact he  reasonably believed there to be serious and imminent danger, i.e. the coronavirus, and having a family member who was required to shield.

The employer had assessed risks and taken measures to avoid transmission in the workplace. In this case the tribunal found the conditions required for a dismissal to be automatically unfair had not been met and the claim was dismissed.

We should be careful about reading too much into any one tribunal decision, each case is decided on its own merits and what may be reasonable in one set of circumstances may not be reasonable in another.

Our HR Support service, led by Claire Cox, can help you plan ahead, maintain legal compliance and work through your HR challenges. Please contact Claire using claire.cox@pibrm.com  if you have any questions or would like to arrange an HR compliance audit.