As has been all over the news, the government has recently announced that anybody working within older adult care homes in England must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 from October, unless they have a medical exemption.
The announcement follows a government consultation on mandatory vaccination for care home workers. It has come about in order to protect the most high-risk members of our society against death and serious illness. The government intends to consult further on whether to extend mandatory vaccination against Covid-19 and flu to others working in health and social care settings so we will have to await that decision!
The government will now lay regulations before parliament as soon as possible for the legislation to be approved. If approved, there will be a 16-week grace period before the regulations come into force in order to allow staff who have not yet been vaccinated time to obtain both of the doses required for full vaccination.
There are a lot of questions now surrounding this, some of which we can answer but others will be confirmed when the government officially releases all of the guidance.
Who does it apply to?
The mandatory vaccination requirement to be fully vaccinated by October will apply to anyone working in a registered older adult care home providing nursing or personal care on a full-time, part-time or volunteer basis, whether employed directly by the care home provider or by an agency.
Those coming into care homes to do other work including healthcare workers, tradespeople, hairdressers and Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspectors will probably also be required to comply with the vaccination requirements.
It does appear that the requirement will only apply to staff requiring indoor access to the premises, and will not apply to residents, or friends or relatives or residents who are visiting. We will have to await the official guidance being released though to know this for sure.
What is an older adult care home?
The proposed regulations would apply to any care home which has at least one person over the age of 65 living in their home in England and which is registered with the Care Quality Commission. This is estimated to be approximately 10,000 care homes.
I run a care home – If my staff refuse the vaccine, can I sack them?
Whilst the mandatory guidelines are clear in that staff need to be vaccinated, that does not mean that you do not need to follow a process in order to dismiss them. A failure to follow a process may very well still render a dismissal unfair if brought to an employment tribunal.
The guidance is clear that you would need to explore all other options such as redeployment etc. prior to taking the step of dismissal.
We would recommend undertaking a consultation period with your staff discussing all options. As it appears that this is going to be a legal requirement unless they can prove an exemption then if they fail to become vaccinated by the required date then it would likely end in dismissal for Some Other Substantial Reason (SOSR).
If I don’t want to make it mandatory in my older care home can I make that decision?
As it is looking likely that this legislation is going to be passed, you will probably not have an option as to whether your staff are vaccinated or not.
The only reason, currently, for staff to be able to carry on working without a vaccination is if they have a genuine and documented medical exemption.
If it is mandatory in care homes, can I also make the vaccine mandatory if I am in a different sector?
It is our opinion that other than in a healthcare setting, the vaccines are unlikely to become mandatory in other sectors.
The fact that particular sectors have now been identified as having the need for mandatory vaccines it will actually mean that a dismissal in sectors that have not been identified as mandatory are more likely to be deemed to be unfair.
If you did dismiss for a failure to vaccinate you will have to show a legitimate reason for the dismissal which is likely be difficult.
How can we help you?
This is likely to be a very difficult time for older care homes as there is likely to be a lot of push back from staff who are currently choosing not to have the vaccine.
The process that you follow is key to any resulting dismissal being considered to be fair, if you require any guidance on an appropriate process then please get in touch at [email protected] or call on 0114 3032300 to speak to one of our expert advisors.