Can teachers refuse to be vaccinated?

Overview

Can teachers refuse to be vaccinated? As a teacher, you might refuse to be vaccinated for Covid-19 due to medical concerns, personal or religious beliefs. Can your school insist you are vaccinated to be able to teach? Could you be potentially dismissed from your role for refusing to take the vaccine?

ACAS explains that employers should support staff in getting the coronavirus vaccine, but they cannot force staff to be vaccinated. The NHS is offering the vaccine on a voluntary basis so individuals can make the decision on whether to be vaccinated or not.

In this article, we look at the topic of whether employers can ask for mandatory vaccinations, the legal factors to be considered and what you can do if you believe your school is being unreasonable if insisting you to take the vaccine.

Can teachers refuse to be vaccinated?

There are no statutory provisions that could force individuals to become vaccinated. The Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 states that members of the public should not be compelled to undergo any mandatory medical treatment, including vaccinations. 

ACAS explains employers should be sensitive towards individual situations and must keep any concerns confidential. Some teachers may have health concerns, for example allergies. Or, some people may be protected from discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. For example, if someone is pregnant. Find out more about discrimination and the law.

The National Law Review explains that employers should be very cautious about pursuing a policy of mandatory vaccination since this could have a number of legal implications. It says:

“Such a policy could expose an employer to claims, including for discrimination and/or constructive dismissal if an employer were to take detrimental or disciplinary action because an employee refuses to be vaccinated and such refusal is related to a characteristic that is protected under U.K. discrimination law (namely, age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation).” 

“For example, there is a risk of maternity or disability discrimination where employees who are pregnant or suffering from a medical condition that amounts to a disability are not able to have the vaccine and are consequently treated less favourably by their employer than employees who have had the vaccine. Likewise, such a requirement could also amount to age discrimination if younger employees, who are likely to be the last category of people being offered the vaccine as part of the NHS rollout, are treated less favourably than older employees who have had the vaccine.”

We have a variety of support articles on the topics of disciplinary procedures, discrimination and equality laws if you would like more information on these areas.

What should I do if my school insists that I take the vaccine?

ACAS explains if an employee or worker believes their employer is being unreasonable in deciding it’s necessary for them to get the coronavirus vaccine, they should try and resolve the problem informally.

They can do this by talking with their:

  • Employer
  • Health and safety representative, if they have one

If it cannot be resolved informally, staff can raise a problem formally. This is known as ‘raising a grievance’. We have written another support article on grievance procedures here.

If you are an Edapt subscriber, you contact us for support and advice if concerned about the topic of refusing vaccinations at your school.

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The information contained within this article is not a complete or final statement of the law.
While Edapt has sought to ensure that the information is accurate and up-to-date, it is not responsible and will not be held liable for any inaccuracies and their consequences, including any loss arising from relying on this information. This article may contain information sourced from public sector bodies and licensed under the Open Government Licence. If you are an Edapt subscriber with an employment-related issue, please contact us and we will be able to refer you to one of our caseworkers.