The government has passed legislation that requires all workers in CQC registered care homes to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
The Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2021 comes into force on 11 November 2021.
Workers will have a grace period of 16 weeks in which to receive both doses of a vaccine, unless medically exempt. This will apply to all employees and workers directly employed or engaged by care home providers, all agency workers engaged in such settings, and volunteers.
The requirement also extends to those individuals coming into care homes for other reasons, such as healthcare workers, tradespeople, hairdressers, beauticians and CQC inspectors.
Under the regulations, a care home provider must ensure that nobody enters a care home unless they fall into one of the identified exceptions. The main ones are: care home residents, friends and relatives of care home residents, emergency help providers (e.g. ambulance), and children under 18.
The 16 week period before the Regulations come into force is to allow care home employers to encourage its workers to get vaccinated, warn of the consequences if they do not, and arrange alternative staffing to replace those who refuse.
The development raises significant practical concerns for employers, including the following:
- how to manage refusals;
- how to police those entering the home;
- what new policies and procedures may be required; and
- whether changes are required to commercial terms with tradespeople and employment businesses supplying agency workers.
The priority for care homes should be to use the period prior to 11 November to educate staff about the vaccine and try to encourage voluntary take-up as much as possible. The alternative is to consider legal processes to redeploy or potentially even dismiss staff in the event that they do not consent to receiving the vaccine once the grace period has ended.
Difficulties may arise around those who are medically exempt, and employers will need to treat such cases carefully to avoid discriminating against those who may be suffering from disabilities and serious medical conditions.
There is also a suggestion that ethical vegans might be exempt. The Covid vaccine does not contain animal products, but all medications currently go through animal testing. Ethical veganism was ruled to be a protected characteristic at a tribunal last year. It means any employers would risk legal action if they order such staff to be vaccinated.
The new rules will inevitably present recruitment challenges and employers will need to make vaccination requirements clear in advertisements and offer documentation. Unfortunately, due to disability discrimination legislation, employers are unlikely to be able to check vaccine status of applicants until the offer stage.
The government is proposing to announce further consultation regarding extending mandatory vaccination to other health and care settings such as the NHS and domiciliary care.
If you require any advice regarding employment law then please contact Justin Sadler on 01189589711 or email: [email protected]
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Justin deals with all aspects of Dispute Resolution for both businesses and individuals, including including Contentious Probate, Employment Law ( for both businesses and individuals) and Commercial Litigation. This means that he is familiar with the many different courts and tribunal as well as the many different methods for resolving disputes, including alternative dispute resolution such as adjudication and mediation.