23 February 2022

Cases - Care home worker who refused vaccination was fairly dismissed

In the case of Allett v Scarsdale Grange Nursing Home Limited, the Claimant, Mrs Allett was a care assistant in a nursing home providing residential care for dementia sufferers.  She was dismissed in December 2020, prior to the introduction of compulsory Covid-19 vaccination for workers in the care sector.  She claimed unfair dismissal and wrongful dismissal. 

Employment Judge Bright, taking care to make plain that the decision was based entirely on the facts of the case and should not be taken as a general indication that dismissal for refusing to be vaccinated against Covid-19 is fair, set out that the claimant’s refusal to be vaccinated was an unreasonable refusal to comply with a reasonable management instruction.  The claimant’s reason was her fear of and scepticism about the vaccine, rather than religious belief.  Judge Bright found that in particular because the Claimant knew she represented a risk to others, her actions fell within the definition and examples of gross misconduct set out in the respondent’s disciplinary procedure.  Her refusal to be vaccinated therefore amounted to a repudiatory breach of her contract of employment entitling the respondent to summarily dismiss her.

To read the case, click here.

Now that the Government has u-turned on the requirement for vaccination and given the recently published FAQs (see the news section), setting out the expectation that healthcare employees will be offered reengagement it will remain to be seen whether any employers can still justify requiring staff to be vaccinated.  Our view is that it may still be possible to justify requiring vaccination in certain circumstances, particularly for smaller employers where they do not have the resources to move staff around or keep other mitigating measures in place to protect vulnerable staff or clients.  

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