A group of care workers who faced termination for refusing to receive the COVID-19 vaccine during the pandemic have been granted the right to appeal their dismissals.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal has sided with the former employees, paving the way for them to contest their alleged unfair dismissal.
The dispute stems from events that unfolded in 2021 when these care workers were employed at a local care home. They will now have the opportunity to present their case before an employment tribunal scheduled for 2024.
Kate Palmer, HR Advice and Consultancy Director at Peninsula, weighed in on this development, stating, “The news that the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has allowed ex-care home employees to appeal the finding that their dismissals were unfair after they refused to have the Covid vaccine could initially seem to be a worry for care homeowners.”
Palmer continued, “But there’s no real need to panic that claims will now flood in from ex-staff. The rules on time limits for making claims will bar any new claims from being made; dismissals will have taken place in 2021, and, normally, employees have 3 months from dismissal to make a claim, which means time will have run out now.”
Was the employer’s mandate reasonable?
The central issue at hand revolves around whether the employer’s mandate requiring its staff to be vaccinated was reasonable and proportionate, a question that the EAT will delve into. Palmer explained, “The aims of the employer will be considered against the effect it had on the employees. The original tribunal could see that the care home’s aim for the safety of residents was paramount.”
“The EAT will need to look at whether there were any other alternative methods for achieving this safety without dismissing the care home staff. That is now, once again, up for debate,” she added.
Importantly, Palmer clarified that this situation differs from dismissals that occurred due to the legal requirement in England for care home workers to be vaccinated. She noted, “This case is about an employer’s own decision to implement a ‘no vaccine, no job’ policy which came about before the Government’s law to achieve the same thing in care homes, which, of course, has since been removed.”
As the legal battle unfolds, it remains to be seen how the tribunal will ultimately weigh the rights of the care workers against the safety concerns of the care home residents, setting a potentially precedent-setting decision that could impact similar cases in the future.
Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.