COVID-status certificates being considered by the UK to help open up society could amount to unlawful indirect discrimination, the UK government’s independent equalities watchdog has advised. According to a report in The Guardian, as ministers decide whether the documents should be introduced as passports to certain events later this year, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has told the Cabinet Office they risked creating a “two-tier society”.
The watchdog also said employers should not be allowed to hire workers on a “no jab, no job” policy until all young people had been offered a vaccine, and that plans to make them mandatory for care workers helping older people may not be lawful.
The EHRC said COVID-status certificates could be a “proportionate” way of easing restrictions, given the toll lockdown has taken on people’s wellbeing and livelihoods. But it said they risked further excluding groups among whom vaccine take-up is lower – including migrants, those from minority ethnic backgrounds and poorer socio-economic groups – from access to essential services and employment.
The Guardian reports that the warnings emerged as UK Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, gave the clearest indication yet that care workers would be required to have a vaccination or be refused deployment in care homes. Launching a five-week consultation on the proposal, the government said the initiative could later be extended to the wider health and social care workforce. “Due to the importance of this issue, we intend to change the law quickly,” it added.