Never one to shy away from controversy, Charlie Mullins of Pimlico Plumbers is reportedly looking at introducing a "no jab, no job" policy for staff.

Whilst perhaps more outspoken than most, Mr Mullins is certainly not alone in considering what approach to take with the vaccine. Should employers simply encourage employees to be vaccinated (but ultimately leave it to individual employees to decide), or should employers adopt a "no jab, no job" policy? A bit like an exam question for first-year law students, the simple question is anything but simple to answer.

The starting point is that no employer can force a vaccination into an employee's arm.

Most employers will wish to start with simply encouraging employees to be vaccinated. But what should an employer do if an employee simply refuses? The legal position will turn on the surrounding circumstances. While it may be reasonable to dismiss an employee working in a high-risk environment like a care home, it is perhaps unlikely to be reasonable to dismiss an employee permanently working from home. 

Even then and even if dismissal is the act of last resort, the legal position is riddled with difficulty. Take the employee working in a care home who is offered but refuses to take the vaccine.

The employer might take the view that protection of residents and staff justifies dismissal; however, the employee may reasonably argue there is considerable uncertainty surrounding the efficacy of the vaccine against the spread of the virus and that others in the care home will be protected to a high degree by the jabs they will have received. Nonetheless, the employer may be justified in dismissal in order to protect the safety of the employee refusing to take the jab (the analogous scenario being a construction worker refusing to wear a hardhat on a construction site).

Employers will also have to take other issues into account, such as an employee refusing to have the vaccine due to an underlying health condition or because of a philosophical belief. 

As with many workplace issues, a solid starting point will be for employers to discuss competing concerns — those about the spread of the virus on the one hand versus the safety of the vaccine on the other.