Mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for staff – what do we know and what is to come?

We now have new legislation requiring care home staff to be vaccinated and there’s a consultation due on mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations in the wider NHS and social care sector.

It’s hugely controversial but here’s some headlines of what we know.

The new legislation

On 22 July 2021, the government made the new regulations which will bring into force mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for those working in and attending care homes from 11 November 2021. Although the regulations are wide ranging and they require full vaccination, there are a number of exemptions.

Exemptions include:

  • Clinical reasons why the worker/visitor cannot have the vaccine
  • Emergencies
  • Urgent site maintenance
  • Friends and relatives of residents need not be vaccinated
  • Children (under 18)

The Vaccine

The vaccine needs to be a complete course of an authorised vaccine. This means that for almost everyone, this will currently be two doses.

Impact Statement

The government’s impact statement gives a wide variation in estimates, but it’s central estimate is that around 40,000 workers in care homes will not be fully vaccinated by 11 November 2021. Unless exempt, those workers without mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations will not be able to work in care homes with the related costs of recruitment in the sector reaching £100 million.

Preparing for 11 November 2021

The clock is ticking – it was widely reported that there would be a sixteen week grace period to enable staff to obtain both of their vaccinations. We are now in that grace period and there is much to do:

  • Employers will almost certainly already have and be recording the vaccine status of staff. Any that do not, will now need to begin. This will be sensitive health data, so consider your data protection obligations. The NHS app is likely to be the easiest evidence of vaccine, but the forms of evidence can vary
    • Existing and future recruitment should refer to the anticipated need for COVID-19 vaccinations (including booster vaccines) and consider revising contractual documents to reflect the changes
  • Consult with staff now. For those that have been reluctant to get their vaccines – we now have an absolute deadline. If they are to have two doses, they’ll need to have had their first dose by 16 September 2021
  • Be prepared to examine the vaccine exemptions for staff. This could take some time to look into (see the government green book)
  • Watch out for detailed guidance: we expect there to be some detailed guidance released

What’s to come

Whilst mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for care home staff have received huge press coverage, there is also now a proposal by the government to consult on further mandatory vaccination in the NHS and wider social care. The consultation has yet to begin, so any extension of mandatory vaccines is unlikely to be in place before 2022.

Contact: Martin Cheyne, Partner

This article first appeared on Care Home Management’s website on 29 June 2021.

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