Published: 05:00, 28 October 2021
| Updated: 15:14, 28 October 2021
A pub landlady who says all her staff must be fully-vaccinated has defended her stance after a former employee claims he felt pressured into having the jab.
Phoenix Tavern boss Kim Sharrock controversially requires all workers to have both doses of the Covid vaccine to protect colleagues and customers.
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But one ex-employee at the Faversham pub, 18-year-old waiter Tailor Jacobs, claims he was not informed of her views before joining the pub and later felt compelled to have the jab - only to lose his job four days later.
The teenager says he would never have gone through with having the vaccine if he believed his position was at risk.
Ms Sharrock says Tailor was told of her stance before taking the job during a “casual conversation” outside the pub, which he disputes.
His mum, Melanie Stevens, 39, said: “It was on his first or second shift that (the landlady) started asking him if he’d had the jab.
“I am not anti-vax at all and have had both of my vaccines, but Tailor was 17 and wasn’t sure he wanted it, but was made to feel like he had to have it.
“In the end he felt like he had no choice, and then four days after he had the jab she texted him saying he was being let go.”
Ms Sharrock told Tailor his employment was being terminated because he was unable to work Sundays, owing to his second job at the Neptune pub in Whitstable.
His mum said: “She didn’t even speak to him before, so he wasn’t even able to say he could resolve the issue with the Sunday shifts.
“So he basically had a vaccine he didn’t want, to keep a job that he lost just days later, without any proper communication about the issue.”
Text messages seen by KentOnline’s sister paper Faversham News show Ms Sharrock chasing Tailor about having the vaccine.
In one sent to him, she wrote: “Can you confirm you have had or booked your Covid jab?” In another she said:
“Do not forget that I need everyone who works here vaccinated. Again, go on NHS website or call doctor.”
Ms Stevens says she was “flabbergasted” by the repeated requests. “I do believe having the jab is a personal choice for kids,” she said.
“Tailor has just turned 18 and was very reluctant about having it. “I’m fuming that he’s felt like he had to have the jab just to keep his job.”
Ms Stevens complained to Ms Sharrock, explaining that her son felt pressured into having the vaccine.
The landlady replied: “Just to be very clear, whilst it is not a legal requirement to have the Covid jab, it is a requirement to work here.
“I am within my rights to request this. I made Tailor aware of this before he started, which is why I checked with him if it had been booked.
“I said at some point he would be required to work Sundays and he said that would be likely as the Neptune (pub) job was seasonal.
“Obviously that was not the case and I cannot provide hours just for Saturdays as there are other staff to consider.”
Ms Sharrock has confirmed to KentOnline that she requires staff to be vaccinated, and claims many other businesses adopt a similar stance.
“With what has happened in hospitality, all my part-timers - Tailor being a case - would not have work..."
“I think it’s because they want to stay open, get paid, not get locked down - there are all sorts of things,” she said.
“With what has happened in hospitality, all my part-timers - Tailor being a case - would not have work.
“We want to protect our business and to do that we have to protect our customers, staff, friends and family.
“It’s not rocket science, and it’s not a massive issue for my staff.
“I would consider any issues they had, if they were unable or unwilling to get vaccinated.”
Ms Sharrock says Tailor had not voiced any objections to having the vaccine, and was only let go because he was unable to work Sundays.
“So far as I was aware there was no problem with my request,” she said. “It was simply a matter of (Tailor) not being able to commit to the same availability to work as the other part-time staff.”
Ms Sharrock says all staff at the pub wear face masks and a number of other measures are still being enforced.
“We try not to be too draconian,” she said. “We still put Covid screens up because they still work and some customers are still anxious.
“There are people still very worried about it and - vaccinated or not - they could still catch it and die.
“We still put Covid screens up because they still work and some customers are still anxious..."
“It is my choice who I want to employ and I want people to be vaccinated,” she added. “Outside work I can’t do anything, but here it is my choice.”
While there is no specific law stopping employers from requiring their employees to be vaccinated, they must be flexible in their approach, says director of Just Employment Law, David Reid.
“Bosses who are completely rigid in how they apply their rules are taking a big risk,” he said.
“For instance, employees who are not vaccinated due to their religious beliefs, or because of a disability, might say they have been discriminated against if they are not offered work.
“Also, since a higher proportion of young people in the population are unvaccinated, compared with other age groups, they might be able to say that a rule that you must be vaccinated discriminates against younger workers too.
“There will be an onus on the employer to justify having a blanket rule in these types of cases.”
Mr Reid says clients of his are imposing similar rules to Ms Sharrock, but they are being encouraged to look at individual cases and make exemptions where appropriate.