Government proposes mandatory COVID-19 vaccines in adult care settings due to low take up
Last week, the Government launched a 5-week consultation looking at requiring adult care providers to deploy only those workers who have received their COVID-19 vaccine, to ensure protection of their vulnerable residents. This is a sweeping change from the current public health policy.
Experts in the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) social care working group advise that 80% of staff and 90% of residents need to be vaccinated to provide a minimum level of protection against COVID-19 outbreaks. Only 53% of older adult homes in England are currently meeting this threshold. As restrictions begin to ease, the Government’s aim is to continue to protect those who are most vulnerable to COVID-19.
The key proposal is to amend regulations to require older adult care providers to deploy only those workers who have received the COVID-19 vaccine; this will not include workers who can provide evidence of a medical exemption. The proposal would apply to any CQC registered care providers which have at least one person over the age of 65 at their sites. The current estimate is that this is approximately 10,000 care homes.
The proposal extends to all workers employed directly by the care home or care home provider (on a full-time or part-time basis), those employed by an agency and volunteers deployed in the care home. It would include workers providing direct care and those working in care homes doing other roles, such as cleaners or kitchen staff. This is in line with the Government’s approach to COVID-19 testing in care homes. The proposals may also extended to other professionals who visit or provide services at the care home, for example NHS workers or hairdressers providing close personal care to residents.
The consultation seeks views on the scope of the proposals, the potential impact the proposals could have on staffing levels and safe service provision, as well as how the proposals could be implemented. Views are also invited on how managers should respond to staff that haven’t been vaccinated and whether those who aren’t vaccinated should be redeployed or have their employment terminated. Views on potential employee relations issues are also sought, for example whether workers may resent the requirement reducing morale, leave the job or seek to challenge care homes via the courts.
The Government hopes that the consultation will help achieve consistency and inform decision-making around how a ‘no jab no job’ policy may be implemented in an adult care setting. Staff, care providers, stakeholders, residents and their families are urged to take part to have their views heard. A final decision is expected this summer to allow for any policy changes to be implemented well ahead of the winter period. The consultation closes on Friday 21 May 2021. If you would like to contribute to, or discuss the potential impact of the consultation on your business, please contact us or click here to respond online.
We have previously highlighted some of the key considerations for care providers mandating vaccines, you can see these here. However, given the rapidly changing COVID-19 vaccine landscape and the growing data on transmissibility it is really important that care providers follow any developments closely and obtain up to date legal advice before implementing any policy change. If the proposals set out in the consultation do become law, they will require careful implementation to reduce potential employee relations issues and any legal claims.
The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the date of publication and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.
‘Doing the right thing’ is at the heart of Freeths. Find out more about our excellent client service and the strong set of values that guide the way we work.
Talk to us
Freeths are a leading national law firm with 13 offices across the UK. If you have a query about our services or just want to find out more, why not give us a call?
Contact: 03301 001 014