‘No Jab, No Job?’
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Come August the CEO of Australian airline Qantas said that the Covid pandemic had cost “billions” in lost revenue. No surprises there! But, at the same time, another airline chimed in with a more surprising announcement. And, it is one that has us questioning whether a ‘no jab, no job’ scenario is on the horizon.
Delta, America’s third-largest airline, said that it would impose a $200 (£145) monthly surcharge on employees who had not been vaccinated against Covid-19. Additionally, it would only pay Covid-related sick pay to those who had been double-jabbed, but still became infected.
In a memo to staff CEO, Ed Bastian stated that the average hospital stay for Covid-19 was now costing the company an ‘untenable’ $50,000 (£36,300). He added, ‘this surcharge will be necessary to address the financial risk the decision not to vaccinate is creating for the company.’
Will other businesses follow suit?
While such measures sound harsh, many companies are now facing a survival of the fittest scenario. There have been many stories of businesses insisting their staff are fully vaccinated before any return to the office. Meanwhile, rumours of pay-cuts for staff opting to work from home are also circulating. Delta, though, is the first we’ve heard about taking direct financial action against unvaccinated staff. So, could other companies follow suit? And, (heaven forbid!) could it fast become a case of ‘no jab, no job?’
Back at the beginning of the year, Prime Minister Boris Johnson stressed that vaccinations would not be compulsory. ‘That’s not the way we do things in this country,’ he stated. It was an affirmation soon followed up Nadhim Zahawi. As Vaccines Minister, he ruled out vaccine passports, saying that such a move would be “discriminatory.”
But while that was – and remains – the official position, could employers make vaccination compulsory in all but name?
How have businesses responded so far?
Around the time the Prime Minister was stating that jabs wouldn’t be compulsory, Pimlico Plumbers, in London, had already set aside money to vaccinate its entire workforce. Vaccination, it said, would be a condition of employment for all new starters. As alluded to above, every week now seems to bring yet more cases of employers insisting on staff being vaccinated.
So, it’s little wonder that the subject is becoming a legal nightmare. As the 2 year mark approaches since the start of the pandemic, many employers inevitably be wanting a return to some semblance of normality. Naturally, they will be attracted by the idea of a fully vaccinated office or factory.
But, can employers do that? Where can the line be drawn between new starters and someone who joined just before the pandemic broke? It is certain to be contested in the courts. Those opposed to the vaccine – on medical or ethical grounds – will make a very simple argument. ‘It wasn’t a condition of my employment that I had the MMR jab. How can you therefore insist I have the Covid jab?’ The claims for unfair dismissal are likely to be rife.
That the employment lawyers are not going to be short of work is almost a done deal. And with the virus constantly changing, and the need for booster jabs becoming apparent, this is not a subject that will be quickly resolved. It is certainly one to watch over the coming months.
As always, if you are concerned about business financial planning, please do get in touch. We’d be glad to see how we can help waylay your fears!
Written by Steve Burns
Steve is a chartered financial planner who has been with Lewis Brownlee for over 20 years, who now heads up Lewis Brownlee Financial Services. Under his directorship, the firm has established itself as a specialist provider of professional, informed and impartial advice.