As the UK begins to emerge from the Coronavirus pandemic thanks to the rollout of vaccines among the adult population, discussions have arisen around the individual decision to have the vaccine, and whether this can or should be made mandatory.
This is particularly poignant where care workers are concerned – more specifically, those who work with the clinically vulnerable who may be more at risk of becoming seriously ill if they were to contract the virus.
The government has recently announced that from 11 November, anyone who works within a care home registered with the Care Quality Commission in England must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19, unless they are exempt.
This article will explore what that means, who is exempt from the new rules and help individuals identify whether they are directly affected by the new vaccine legislation.
If you do not work in or for a care home, you can read our article on vaccinations in the workplace here.
Who must be vaccinated?
As of 11 November 2021, it will be mandatory for any care home worker who is required to work on-site to be fully vaccinated – this means they will need to have had both jabs by this date.
The law applies not just to employed staff, but to agency workers, contractors, and anyone who is not employed by the care home but is required to enter the premises for work purposes, such as doctors, nurses or inspectors.
Unless the employee can provide proof of an exemption from the rule as outlined below, their role may be at risk if they do not receive the vaccination in time.
It is an employers’ responsibility to ensure all staff are aware of this timeline. The government has issued guidance around the role of employers where the new policy is concerned, suggesting written vaccination policies and how to discuss the policy with new recruits and agency staff. If you are an employer and require further guidance, get in touch with us to discuss how you can approach the topic with your team.
Who is exempt?
There are some exceptions to the new law. Individuals who fall under the following categories do not need to provide evidence of vaccination:
- Anyone with a medical exemption certificate
- Care home residents
- Friends and families of residents
- Employees who do not need to enter the care home
- Anyone providing emergency assistance, such as paramedics
- Anyone visiting a resident who is dying
- Anyone providing bereavement support
- Anyone under the age of 18
How can an employer check if an employee is vaccinated?
As an employer, care homes can check an employee’s vaccination status by using the NHS app, the NHS website, or a Covid Pass letter. If exempt from vaccination, an employee will need to provide a temporary medical exemption form.
Care homes will then be required to keep a record of the vaccination or exemption status of their staff. They will not, however, be required to keep a record of the reason for the exemption in order to comply with data protection obligations.
The CQC will be checking registered care homes in England for compliance with the new law.
What happens if an employee is not vaccinated (and if an exemption does not apply)?
From 11 November, no unvaccinated staff member will be able to enter a registered care home unless they are exempt.
If an employee is unwilling to have the vaccination, but not for an accepted reason of exemption, the employer must follow a consultation process with the individual. While care homes are obligated to consider alternate roles for those who do not wish to receive the jabs (such as roles that do not require entry to the care home itself), there is a risk of termination of employment if there is nothing suitable and the individual still wishes to remain unvaccinated.
If an employer has reviewed all of the available options and is still unable to find a reasonable alternative for the employer, they must ensure they follow a fair procedure where dismissal is concerned – including offering the right to appeal the decision. Jefferies can offer support on the best practice where dismissal procedures are concerned.
Jefferies are here for you
Whether you are an employer or employee, you can discuss any concerns regarding vaccination and employment policies with us. Get in touch with our employment Employment Law Team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01702 332 311 and one of our solicitors will be in touch.
The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.