Kate Brooks
Partner, Solicitor & Head of Employment/HR Services
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Date Published:18 Jun 2021 Last Updated:12 Oct 2021

Vaccines mandatory for care home workers: practical steps for employers

Employment Law Advice

A decision has been made to make it a legal requirement for all care workers working in care homes to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. It is possible that this will be extended into other healthcare organisations and therefore it is sensible for all healthcare settings to prepare.

Is this law?

The secondary legislation has not currently been approved or rejected by Parliament but it is expected that it will be laid before Parliament quickly.

What does this actually mean to employers and care staff?

The detail is yet to be announced, however on review of the government press release and consultation document; it is likely to apply to:

  • CQC registered care homes with residents requiring nursing or personal care; and
  • All staff engaged by those homes ranging from staff directly employed, agency staff, through to those who visit the homes to offer services e.g. beauticians, tradespeople.

It will not apply to:

  • The legislation will not apply to 100% of staff and will always have a medical exemption, so that those staff who are medically exempt from the vaccine will not be complied to have it. What is not clear is whether there will be an exemption for those with religious or philosophical beliefs.

As is the current situation, it is likely to be risky to terminate or reject a care worker for employment if they refuse the vaccine based on one of the protected characteristics set out in the Equality Act 2020 e.g. disability, religious or philosophical beliefs.

Can we insist all care workers (existing and candidates) have the vaccine?

The short answer is no. This will be the case even after the legislation is approved. There is always going to be a medical exemption. This means that you can have a wider policy that states the vaccine is mandatory; however you will not be able to apply this policy to 100% of care workers due to medical exemptions. Care will always need to be given to understand an individual’s reasons for not wanting the vaccine and to assess whether there is a risk of discrimination.

Practical steps to take

My advice is that all care home and healthcare settings should:

  1. Develop a vaccine policy – we can help you develop this policy;
  2. Train managers and staff on the policy as it will be relevant form job advert through to end of employment;
  3. Ensure Equal opportunities and anti harassment and bullying training is up to date;
  4. The policy should be agreed with staff. This is likely to involve consultation and discussion with all staff;
  5. Educate and support staff in respect of their decision to have the vaccine; and
  6. Understand the real reasons of those who do not wish to have the vaccine. Only when employers understand the real reasons can they decide what steps to take with employees who are opposed to the vaccine.

How can Ellis Jones help?

  1. Free review of your vaccine policy, and any other employee documents. Simply email us a copy of your policy and we will carry out a free review;
  2. Helpline to assist with vaccine and all HR/employment related queries;
  3. Provide bespoke training to all of your staff on a range of HR topics to include Equal Opportunities.

If you are interested in any of the above, please get in touch with kate.brooks@ellisjones.co.uk or 01202 057754.