Mandatory Vaccinations for Care Workers

Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced yesterday that Covid vaccinations are to become compulsory for staff at care homes in England.

Workers will be given a 16 week ‘grace period’ to get both jabs once the regulations are brought into law in the coming days. If staff do not get the jab, they face being re-deployed or potentially losing their jobs, unless they can prove they are medically exempt. This move is sure to raise some hot legal and ethical issues for sure.

The move to mandatory vaccinations follows months of speculation and those of you who follow me will be aware that I predicted this was just around the corner, not least given the government’s publication of an open consultation on 21st May 2021 entitled: Making vaccination a condition of deployment in older adult care homes.

This move has the potential to further worsen staff supply issues in the sector and make recruitment and retention all that much harder.

I have set out below some useful answers to the five most common FAQs likely to come off the back of this announcement.

Q: Why has the government decided to make Covid vaccinations mandatory?

A: Concerns regarding the low take-up of the vaccine in some areas, in particular London, and ultimately, the protection of elderly customers in care homes. The government targeted 80% of staff having been vaccinated, the threshold deemed essential to keep the virus out if 90% of residents were also vaccinated. There is precedent for mandatory vaccination, with medical staff that come into contact with blood being required to have the Hepatitis B vaccine.

Q: What care homes will it apply to?

Any care home with at least one over 65 customer. Therefore, this new law is likely to affect over 10,000 care homes.

Q: What workers will it apply to? 

A: Front line care workers, agency staff, cleaners, and kitchen staff. It will also apply to volunteers and those visiting to provide a service or trade, such as healthcare workers, tradespeople, hairdressers and beauticians. Visiting family and friends, under-18’s and those undertaking urgent maintenance work will be exempt.

Q: Who is responsible for ensuring compliance?

A: Registered Managers are responsible for ensuring that each and every qualifying worker has been vaccinated and has provided evidence of the same or are exempt. Homes will have to consider what evidence they will collect, how, and when.

Q: Will this form part of our CQC assessment?

A: Yes. Vaccination will form part of CQC’s Fundamental Standards. Therefore, Registered Managers would need to provide evidence that qualifying workers have been vaccinated or are exempt. A process for checking this information and regularly updating the same will be expected, as will the taking of appropriate action where a worker refuses to be vaccinated without reasonable grounds.

This issue is likely to have a huge effect on care providers and you will need to tread carefully to ensure that you do not fall foul of the new regulations, upset existing staff, or end up defending expensive and time-consuming Employment Tribunal Claims.

If you would like a copy of a FREE Covid vaccination policy, please contact me on lloyd.clarke@attwells.com or 01206 239761.

Where can I get more advice on this subject or any other Employment Law/HR issues?

Lloyd Clarke is a Partner of Attwells Solicitors LLP and heads up the firm’s Employment Law Department. Lloyd regularly works with care providers to give them legal advice on those issues affecting the care sector. Lloyd operates flexible funding arrangements including popular retainer packages, fixed fees, and reduced hourly rates.

Attwells are a commercial partner of Essex Care Association and Lloyd also works closely with Age UK, with Attwells enjoying ‘Platinum Friend’ status in recognition of their work with the charity.

Contact Lloyd Clarke on 01206 239761 or lloyd.clarke@attwells.com for a free consultation.