MANDATORY VACCINES IN CARE HOMES

MANDATORY VACCINES IN CARE HOMES

A client has been in touch about the care home update from the Government. Now that it has been confirmed that care home staff must have the COVID-19 vaccine, the client would like more information about how they can manage staff and any other important information they need to know.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has indeed confirmed that people working in CQC-registered care homes will need to be fully Covid-19 vaccinated, with both doses, as a condition of deployment. This change only applies to England as Scotland and Wales have confirmed that they will not be mandating the Covid-19 vaccine for care home staff.

It is currently expected that the law will be made in October 2021. It will not come into force until 16 weeks later; at that point, affected employees must have had both doses of the vaccine unless they are medically exempt. Dependent on the exact date the regulations are made in October 2021, care home workers will have until early 2022 to have had the vaccine. For illustrative purposes, a 16-week grace period from the last day in October 2021 will expire on 20 February 2022.

The law will apply 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 deployed by the care home, and volunteers deployed in the care home.

People coming into care homes to do other work, such as healthcare workers, CQC inspectors, tradespeople, hairdressers, and beauticians will also have to follow the new regulations unless they have a medical exemption.

There will also be exceptions for visiting family and friends, under 18s, emergency services, and people undertaking urgent maintenance work. However, there will be no exemption for those who hold a religious belief and refuse the vaccine on those grounds. The Government recognises that in some circumstances, vaccination may not be appropriate during pregnancy and this will be considered in guidance regarding granting exemptions.

Making the vaccine compulsory in care homes may cause significant resourcing problems for affected employers if staff choose not to have the vaccine despite the possibility that they will lose their job and possibly even their chosen career. One important consideration for the client is that, if it comes to terminating employment, a full and fair procedure will still be needed. A change in the law on vaccines in this way does not mean an exemption from normal rules on achieving a fair dismissal.

The client will need to become familiar with which individuals must have the vaccine because this goes further than just those who are directly employed. As it covers agency workers and also volunteers, along with anyone who comes to the home to provide services, it is clear that this will create an extra administrative burden on the client.

Unless employees are medically exempt, anyone working in a care home will be under a legal requirement to have had both doses of the vaccine. Continuing to employ someone who contravenes the requirement is likely to be unlawful. The client will need to redeploy an employee outside of the care home who would otherwise be working in breach of the vaccine requirement, including those who refuse to show proof. It is unlikely though that if employees have had the vaccine, they would be reluctant to show proof. If redeployment is not possible, the employee will need to be dismissed.

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