Katten rules out compulsory vaccinations in London unless guidance changes

City office head warns firms to tread carefully when considering global policies

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The managing partner of Katten’s London office, Christopher Hitchins, has warned international law firms to ‘tread carefully’ when considering firm-wide compulsory vaccination policies.

Writing in The Global Legal Post, Hitchins reveals that while Katten is ‘mulling over’ whether it should follow the growing number of leading firms in mandating vaccines in the US, the London office ‘is not intending to pursue a mandatory vaccination policy... unless or until such time as the government guidance changes’.

An employment law specialist, Hitchins says there is a risk that mandatory vaccination policies may generate discrimination claims, given that they currently go further than government advice. Added to that there is ‘a GDPR requirement that an employer must have a clear and necessary reason in order to request and keep vaccination records’, he writes.

But he also maintains that global law firms must be alive to cultural norms in the countries where they operate when considering firm-wide policies.

‘Employers frequently implement policies which could potentially be interpreted as unlawful,’ he argues. ‘They are well used to balancing the risk of claims, fines, negative PR or other sanctions against what they are trying to achieve by such a policy.

'On occasions, they may decide the end justifies the means. When it comes to a policy that curtails a person’s ability to choose and goes further than current government advice to employers, though, that calculation may shift.’

Above the Law has been keeping a tally of the growing number of US firms that have made vaccinations a requirement for lawyers returning to their offices when they reopen in September or October with a threat by Davis Polk to deactivate the door passes of unvaccinated staff generating national headlines.

Firms to have mandated vaccinations include Cooley, Fried Frank, Hogan Lovells, Reed Smith Weil Gotshal and the UK’s Clifford Chance, for its US offices.

While some UK government ministers have appeared to back mandatory vaccinations, so far it has only moved to require vaccinations for care home workers, a policy that will come into force in November.

Some companies, however, including Harry Potter publishers Bloomsbury, Bank of America and Pimlico Plumbers have said they will require vaccinations, the BBC has reported.

Last week, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development told its 160,000 members that employers ‘cannot forcibly vaccinate employees or potential employees’ – unless legally required, according to The Guardian.

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