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Covid vaccine compulsory for healthcare workers?

Posted by HR & Employment Team in Care

There has been speculation for a while around whether getting the coronavirus vaccination will become compulsory for things like jobs and travel.

Reports now indicate  the Government will indeed shortly confirm that he COVID-19 vaccine will be compulsory for workers in care homes. Although nothing is yet set in stone, it’s thought that affected staff will have a period of 16 weeks to get vaccinated, or face redeployment and possibly job termination in around 10,000 care homes across England.

It’s thought this will apply to care homes in England that:

  • are CQC-registered;
  • have at least 1 resident over 65; and
  • where the worker has no medical exemption from having the vaccine.

Similar rules could be put in place for other healthcare staff. Although nothing is confirmed, here’s what we know so far…

The Government is considering amending the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014 to increase vaccine take up

This would mean older adult care home providers could only use those staff who have received the Covid-19 vaccination (or those with a legitimate medical exemption) in line with Government guidance.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) explained: ‘older adults in care homes have been significantly affected by the pandemic because of their heightened risk of infection, often with devastating consequences, as well as the risk of outbreaks in these closed settings,’

In this context, a consultation has launched (now closed) seeking views on proposals to make the vaccination a condition of deployment in older adult care homes.

The Social Care subsection of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) has advised that an uptake rate of 80% in staff and 90% in residents in each individual care home setting would be needed to provide a minimum level of protection against outbreaks of COVID-19.

This is for a single dose against the current dominating variant.

As of 4 April, 78.9 per cent of all eligible workers in all older adult care homes had received at least their first vaccination.

However, this masks significant variation at a regional, local and individual care home level. As of 8 April, 89 local authorities have a staff vaccination rate under 80 per cent, including all 32 London Boroughs, while 27 local authorities have a staff vaccination rate under 70 per cent.

The consultation document is currently being translated into a range of languages including Albanian, Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Kurdish, Nepali, Punjabi, Polish, Romanian, Somali, Turkish, Ukrainian and Urdu.

What is the consultation considering? 

Care home managers are ultimately responsible for the safety of people living in their care. Under the proposed change to regulations, it would therefore be their responsibility to check evidence that workers deployed in the home are vaccinated, or medically exempt from vaccination. This means that workers would need to provide evidence to the manager that they have been vaccinated.

As a result, the government is carefully considering the best way for people to prove that they have been vaccinated to their employer. This may involve, for example, showing vaccination status on a mobile phone app. The government is also considering the least burdensome way for people to demonstrate to care home organisations that they are medically exempt from vaccination.

Looking at how this requirement would be introduced, the government is evaluating what would be an appropriate grace period for new and existing care home workers before they are required to be vaccinated. It is likely that care home managers would be expected to keep a record of vaccinations as part of their staff employment and occupational health records.

The intension is to permit care homes to retain a skilled, compassionate and caring workforce, keep the workforce and the people they care for safe, and make working in adult social care an attractive career choice. It is recognised that some people may choose not to be vaccinated, even if the vaccination is clinically appropriate for them. In these circumstances they will no longer be able to be deployed in a care home setting and providers will need to manage this in a way which does not destabilise the provision of safe, high quality care.

Care home managers are being asked to anticipate how they would respond to the requirement, thinking about staff who are not vaccinated. For example, would they expect to redeploy unvaccinated staff or cease employment for unvaccinated staff? These potential options should be taken into consideration.

If you have any queries around this subject, or anything else HR and employment law, give our friendly team a call on 0161 603 2156 to discuss how we could help your business flourish.

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