The Guardian newspaper announced last week that the government was set to make Covid-19 vaccinations mandatory for care home staff following a public consultation with staff, providers, residents and their families. Shortly after this piece was published the Government confirmed that everyone working in CQC-registered care homes will need to be fully Covid-19 vaccinated with both doses unless they have a medical exemption.
The mandatory vaccination requirement will apply to anyone working in a CQC-registered care home in England providing nursing or personal care whether employed by the home directly (on a full time or part time basis), supplied through an agency or on a volunteer basis. It will also apply to anyone visiting a care home including healthcare workers, tradespeople, hairdressers and CQC inspectors. There will be exemptions however for visiting family and friends, under 18s, emergency services and people undertaking urgent maintenance work. The changes are due to come into force in October 2021, subject to parliamentary approval and a 16 week grace period which will give staff the chance to get their vaccinations up to date.
Up until this point the Government has not legislated to make the Covid-19 vaccination mandatory and have respected individuals’ right to choose. This put some employers in the care sector in a difficult position as they had to try and balance individual employee’s right to choose whether to have the vaccination with their responsibility to protect their residents and staff from harm. By legislating to make vaccinations mandatory, the risks employers previously faced of unfair dismissal claims and potential claims under the Equality Act 2010 are going to be minimised.
A further consultation is due to be launched to look at extending mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations to other health and social care settings. It is clear from the Government’s response to the consultation on care homes that they see mandatory vaccination as a means of protecting care home residents from death and serious illness. As such I think we are likely to see mandatory vaccination rolled out in health and care settings.