Fri 25 Jun 2021

Equality News - June 2021

What's new in Equality Law?

UK government makes Covid vaccine compulsory for care home staff in England

As reported in our last Equality News, the UK government has been consulting on the issue of making the Covid vaccine compulsory for certain workers. In its response to the consultation, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) had highlighted the discrimination and human rights implications of doing so, although they also said that it in certain circumstances it could be “reasonable to require” care home workers who work directly with older and disabled people to be vaccinated. However, the EHRC also indicated that safeguards would be needed to prevent unlawful discrimination.  The UK Government has now made a decision to make the vaccine compulsory for care home workers in England and they will continue to consult about making it compulsory in the NHS.  It would appear that the decision is based mainly on the lower uptake of the vaccine amongst care home workers and the health risks that this poses to staff and residents.  Employees who are medically exempt from getting the vaccine will not be compelled to be vaccinated.  It would appear that the governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have no plans to make vaccines compulsory for care home staff.  The UK Government's wider plans for 'vaccine passports' for the whole population to access a range of public and private services appear to have been dropped amidst concerns about enforcement and the discrimination and human rights implications that we have reported on previously.

EHRC finds Pre-employment Health Questions unlawful

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has concluded an investigation into an employer routinely asking job applicants questions about their health.

The EHRC launched the investigation after receiving a complaint from the National AIDS Trust that Elite Careplus Limited were requiring job applicants to provide information about their health during the recruitment process. The investigation revealed that the company were requiring applicants to complete a medical questionnaire which asked them to disclose if they had ever had a number of specific health conditions including questions on whether the applicants had mental health issues. The applicants were also asked to provide information on whether they were on any medication which might have an impact on their performance or attendance at work and there was also a question which sought to establish if the applicants were likely to be classed as disabled for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010.

Following the investigation, the EHRC found the questions to be unlawful and started enforcement action against the company.

This investigation should serve as a reminder to employers that section 60 of the Equality Act 2010 prohibits employers from asking job applicants questions about their health. There are some very limited exceptions to this rule, such as where health is directly relevant to an intrinsic function of the role and we would urge employers to take specific advice before asking health questions at the pre-employment stage.

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