What do we already know?
We updated you in our Issue 2 Newsletter Coronavirus (COVID-19): Vaccinations – Can employers insist? on the issues involved in introducing a mandatory vaccination policy. We advised that in certain circumstances it would be more reasonable to make the vaccine mandatory. In particular, an employer’s Covid-19 risk assessment may find it necessary for staff in particular roles and sectors, such as care workers, to have the vaccine to protect the vulnerable people they work with.
The Government has announced that from October 2021 anyone working in a registered care home providing nursing or personal care will need to be fully COVID-19 vaccinated with both doses. This follows the Government’s consultation on this topic and is intended to protect residents against death and serious illness.
The mandatory vaccination requirement will cover anyone working in a registered care home providing nursing or personal care on a full-time, part-time or volunteer basis, whether employed directly by the care home provider or by an agency. Those coming into care homes to do other work including healthcare workers, trades people, hairdressers and Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspectors must also comply with the vaccination requirements.
The only exceptions are those staff who have a medical exemption; those entering a care home to assist in an emergency or to carry out urgent maintenance work; people under 18 years of age; and clinical trial participants. The mandatory vaccination will also not apply to residents, or friends or relatives or residents who are visiting.
The Government has said it will publish further guidance on the scope and process for granting exemptions and that it is considering how those affected will be able to use, for example, the NHS app to provide evidence to employers of their vaccination or exemption status.
The Government intends to consult further on whether to extend mandatory vaccination against Covid-19 and flu to others working in health and social care settings.
This change in the law does help remove the risks for employers which have a policy of mandatory vaccination for its staff in the care sector, as there will be a statutory reason for this.
However, to support good employee relations the preferred route will no doubt remain encouraging workers to take the vaccine and stressing its importance, rather than mandating it. This is particularly important because this is likely to be an ongoing issue as staff are likely to need annual boosters, not just the initial vaccination. This approach should also help employers avoid needing to defend costly unfair dismissal and discrimination claims or, if they do face such a claim, to show that there has been a fair process.