From 11th November 2021, it will become mandatory for those working in CQC-registered care homes in England to demonstrate evidence of having had a completed course of a coronavirus (Covid-19) vaccine or evidence that they are exempt from having the coronavirus vaccination.
This statutory requirement comes under the Health and Social Care Act 2018 (Coronavirus) Regulations 2021 and applies to those who enter the indoor premises of a care home. This includes not only the staff of the care home but other professions who may visit the care home including tradespeople and other healthcare workers. Further details can be found at The Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2021
Those who are visiting care home residents, such as friends or relatives are excluded from the requirement to be fully vaccinated along with those providing emergency care or maintenance work and those under the age of 18.
This week, the Health secretary Sajid Javid announced the requirement for all full-time NHS staff in patient-facing roles to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 by April 2022. This means that becoming full vaccinated against coronavirus would become a condition of employment for all frontline health and care workers, unless they are medically exempt. However, there is also the risk of widespread dismissals and/or resignations when this becomes mandatory at a time when the NHS is already under significant pressure. Some trade unions have even threatened legal action.
Organisations including the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) recognise that vaccination is a key pillar in infection control and disease prevention in healthcare settings and their position is that all members of the nursing team should have any vaccine deemed necessary to help protect themselves, patients, colleagues, family members, and the wider community.
The RCN has encouraged its members to take up the offer of vaccination as soon as they can but has significant concerns that mandating vaccines will further marginalise those who are currently vaccine hesitant and put further pressure on a hugely depleted workforce by forcing people out of employment.
Currently, employers have a duty to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, the health and safety at work of their staff, which means that encouraging their employees take up a vaccination against coronavirus is likely to be a reasonable step to take to reduce the risk to their own health and that of their co-workers.
However, taking disciplinary action against an employee for refusing to take up the coronavirus vaccination is likely to be a step too far without the Government introducing legislation which makes compulsory vaccinations a condition of employment.