Well another week has passed and gone. In this past week I picked up my wedding dress (sadly postponed to next year… but still… yay!) and I had quite a few (very cold) outings to meet friends and family in pub gardens. Being able to get out and about again was truly lovely and whilst sitting outside, although on each occasion I was frozen to the core, for those moments I forgot that we were still in a pandemic.

However, the feeling of the pandemic is always very close to home. On the lips of many again is the hot topic of whether the government, and public or private sector employers, might have the right to make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory. The UK government has now launched a consultation on proposals which would make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for staff working in care homes with elderly residents. So we should watch this space on this…

As well as the above discussion, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) published its highly topical judgement on the case of Vavřička and others v. Czech Republic [2021], where they held that a compulsory national childhood vaccination programme which imposed penalties for non-compliance did not, in the particular circumstances, violate human rights.

To give you a bit of background on this case, the Czech Republic introduced a compulsory vaccination programme requiring children to be vaccinated against 9 diseases and for any non-compliance penalties would be imposed. After some individuals were penalised for non-compliance they alleged that the programme was in breach of Articles 8 (right to respect for private and family life) and 9 (right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion) of the ECHR. In the ECtHR’s decision they held that although the vaccination programme did interfere with the claimant’s Article 8 rights, the interference was justified as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. With regards to Article 9, the ECtHR considered whether the claimants right to freedom of thought or conscience was protected and found that the claimant’s beliefs lacked sufficient strength to be protected under the Article.

Now yes, due to current circumstances, this case will be of particular interest and will most likely make a lot of people start wondering if this is the start of a floodgate type situation. However, you must bear in mind that it is very fact specific case, concerning tried and tested vaccinations against long standing diseases. It therefore does not give the green light for national governments to make COVID-19 vaccinations compulsory, let alone for employers to make vaccination a condition of employment.

Whilst those steps may be possible, in some very limited situations, there are many factors that you as the employer will need to take into account before deciding whether to mandate vaccination as a condition of employment. This is a tricky area for sure, so please do feel free to get in touch if you have any queries.