First person receives COVID-19 vaccine in UK

Can companies force employees to be vaccinated?

First person receives COVID-19 vaccine in UK

The first person to receive the COVID-19 vaccine today called it ‘the best early birthday present’.

Margaret Keenan, 90, was given the vaccine in the England, as the UK becomes the very first country to start mass vaccination.

The news signals the start of the end, as employers can finally start looking forward to a return to normality. The vaccine, made by Pfizer/BioNTech, will be given to four million people this month, with a main focus on vulnerable groups such as the elderly and health care workers.

Read more: Should employees be taxed for working from home?

Speaking to the BBC, Keenan said: “I feel so privileged to be the first person vaccinated against COVID-19, it's the best early birthday present I could wish for because it means I can finally look forward to spending time with my family and friends in the new year after being on my own for most of the year.

"I can't thank May and the NHS staff enough who have looked after me tremendously, and my advice to anyone offered the vaccine is to take it - if I can have it at 90 then you can have it too."

Yesterday, PM Justin Trudeau revealed that 249,000 doses of the vaccine are set to arrive in Canada by the end of the year – with a focus on health care workers and hospital employees.

According to CBC, the vaccine will be distributed on a ‘per capita basis’, with care homes being amongst the first to receive the doses.

Read more: Is all-remote the future of work?

While this is good news for many, it does raise questions around the legality of making vaccination mandatory at work.

Speaking to HRD earlier this year, Stephen Wolpert, partner at Whitten & Lublin, revealed the grey areas.

“Employers cannot force employees to take any kind of medication or vaccination, so the COVID-19 vaccine could follow the same rule,” he told us.

“Whatever vaccine it is, you can't know that it's safe for every individual person. There are lots of vaccines out there which aren’t safe for certain people because of pre-existing medical issues. 

“If the employee refuses to take the vaccine, and they cite a legitimate medical reason, then you certainly couldn't fire them.

“If they refuse, and they provide no reason, that’s a different story altogether.”

Recent articles & video

What will HR look like in 2021?

Canada's 10 best places to work in 2021, according to Glassdoor

'Smart' cushion to monitor employee fatigue raises privacy concerns

Wave bye bye to five-day office work, Unilever CEO says

Most Read Articles

Why mental health is a C-Suite issue – not just HR

Switching off: The toxic rise of 'virtual presenteeism'

StatCan on a massive hiring spree – with salaries up to $76K