InsightsInsight - Employment & HR - POSTED: August 11 2021
COVID-19: Compulsory vaccination for care home workers
COVID-19 vaccine update
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Following an extensive public consultation with thousands of staff, providers, residents and families, the government has passed legislation that will require care homes to ensure all workers are vaccinated against COVID-19.
The new legislation will come into force on 11 November 2021 for all Care Quality Commission (CQC) regulated care homes in England.
How will the legislation affect care home providers?
Once the legislation has been implemented, care home providers must ensure anyone entering their premises has completed a course of an approved COVID vaccine.
This will apply unless they fall into one of the categories below:
- Workers who should not be vaccinated for clinical reasons (for example, a pre-existing diagnosis of anaphylaxis)
- Emergency service providers and urgent maintenance workers (for example, ambulance workers or emergency plumbers)
- Residents and their friends and families
- Children under 18
- Any person working only in the external grounds
Why make the vaccine compulsory for care home staff?
The new legislation is to help ensure that care home residents at high risk from COVID-19, either due to their age, underlying health conditions or disability, are better protected against the virus.
Many consider its implementation crucial due to the tragedy of nearly 30,000 more resident deaths in England and Wales during the coronavirus outbreak compared to the same period in 2019.
However, the new legislation is going to impact the sector significantly, affecting those employed directly by an agency, and even volunteers.
Tradespeople will also be impacted by the new requirement, including hairdressers and beauticians that go into the care homes to work.
Impact on employers
There will be a 16-week grace period after the 11 November to allow staff to get vaccinated.
From this date, care homes will be legally entitled to dismiss staff (excluding those who are exempt) who refuse to get the vaccine.
There remains ambiguity around the impact that this new requirement will have on employment claims.
Care homes will still need to act reasonably when dismissing workers who refuse the vaccine, and a fair process will need be followed.
It is also currently recommended that before taking the action to dismiss staff, care homes consider alternative work for these staff members, which could take place outside the premises.
There is also concern from employers that some dismissals may lead to discrimination claims against them. For example, those that refuse the vaccine for religious or philosophical beliefs are not exempt under the legislation. The government is yet to provide guidance on this, but we will update you when they do.
It is not only care homes that need to remain vigilant. The government also intend to launch a further public consultation on making COVID-19 and flu vaccinations a condition of employment in health and care settings.
For further guidance on the impact of the new legislation on your business, book a free 30-minute consultation with one of our employment specialists, at a time that suits you.
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