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The Government has recently announced plans for vaccinations against COVID-19 to be compulsory for all care workers in England under new legislation coming into place later this year, subject to parliamentary approval. This follows on from a consultation in April 2021 and is intended to protect residents from death and serious illness.
From October 2021, anyone working in a Care Quality Commission registered care home will have four months to be fully vaccinated with two COVID-19 doses, unless they have a medical exemption.
The new rules not only apply to care workers, but also includes all other workers that will enter the care home such as hairdressers and tradespeople.
There will be exceptions for visiting family and friends, under 18s, emergency services and people undertaking urgent maintenance work.
The Government plans to hold further consultations about whether to extend this to domiciliary care .
As of 21 June 2021, over 50,000 people had signed a petition against the plan to make the COVID-19 vaccine compulsory for all care home workers.
Care workers will be forced to weigh up the benefit of protecting their service users and their own human right to freedom to choose what to put into their bodies, whilst facing judgment at work and from the wider community.
Enforcing mandatory vaccinations on a sector that already struggles with staffing issues could be detrimental to the care industry. Karolina Gerlich, chief executive of The Care Workers’ Charity, raised her concerns that this could lead to workers leaving the care sector, saying "This move will undoubtedly lead to severe and devastating staff shortages, as many choose to leave the sector - with care staff feeling that their views are not being respected or heard” adding that "Compulsory vaccinations will only serve to further alienate our wonderful social care workforce that, despite their incredible work, feel side-lined, undervalued and ignored."
What if an employee refuses to get the vaccine?
Once the legislation is passed, a failure to comply and get both doses of the vaccination would be a breach of the legislation and the employee may be at risk of losing their job in the care home.
A Fair Dismissal
Would there be a fair reason to dismiss an employee who refuses to have the vaccination?
If an employee has been employed for two years or more, they have the right not to be unfairly dismissed. Before considering whether it is appropriate to dismiss an employee for refusing to get the vaccine, employers will need to consider the reasons for the refusal, particularly if they are based on a protected characteristic. The usual principles of fairness will need to be followed and employers will need to consider any alternatives to dismissal.
Employers should seek legal advice before deciding to dismiss an employee for failure to get the vaccination.
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