Employment Tribunal rules fair dismissal for care home worker's refusal of Covid vaccine

The Leeds Employment Tribunal has released employment Judge Bright's judgment on a case brought before them as to whether a care home worker was unfairly dismissed for her refusal to receive the Covid-19 vaccine in January 2021.

care assistant at Scarsdale Grange Nursing Home refused a request to receive the Covid-19 vaccine on the grounds of not believing the vaccine was 'safe' and that it had been 'rushed through without being properly tested'. The evidence in the case also documents that '[the claimant] and her son had gone on the internet and had read stories about [the vaccine] being unsafe and that the Government were lying about its safety'. The word 'conspiracy' was also noted in the contemporaneous notes made of the initial meeting before the vaccine was due to be administered. The papers document that time was taken to explain scientific evidence available at the time to the claimant, whilst appreciating that in January 2021 there was less information available, as well as the potential very serious risks to the residents and visitors of the care home. 

The claimant also added a discrimination claim that she refused on the grounds of religion, but this was dismissed by the judge.

The timing of the request for vaccination was also notable as the care home had recently battled a swathe of infections which took the lives of a number of residents after they had been able to avoid any outbreak from early 2020 until December 2020. 

What this judgment very much hinges on is whether it was 'reasonable' for the respondent to request that workers be vaccinated, and whether the claimant 'reasonably' refused that request. The conclusion was that the request from management was reasonable, and that the reasons for the claimant's refusal weren't reasonable, and so it was fair to dismiss the claimant.

This is a pivotal decision for Court of Protection practitioners, following the Coronavirus amendments to the Health and Social Care Act 2008 requiring care workers to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Many of our clients rely on care packages where we are now checking compliance with the vaccination roll-out. Some workers will refuse, and it is helpful to have this judgment as a guide to how to deal with such situations. We will need to be sure to document any worker's reasons for refusal, and make an assessment as to whether those are reasonable. We have the added complication of the very high risk to many extremely clinically vulnerable clients, which we will have no doubt seen already, before vaccination was mandated. 

Employment advice will be crucial, but ultimately we have a duty to protect the safety of our clients.


This information is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. Please contact us for specific advice on your circumstances. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024.



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