The government is to make coronavirus vaccinations compulsory for care home staff who work with elderly and vulnerable people according to reports today (June16).
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) is expected to press ahead with making Covid vaccination a condition of social care staff deployment when it publishes the response to its ‘no jab, no job’ consultation later this week.
The move would mean compulsory vaccination for most of the 1.5 million people currently working in social care in England, despite fears having been previously raised that it could lead to staff leaving the profession, which has in recent years struggled to fill vacancies.
According to reports, care staff will have 16 weeks to get vaccinated or risk losing their job, however, the measure would not include to staff who can provide evidence of a medical exemption from Covid-19 vaccination.
The full plans are expected to be officially announced by ministers in the coming days. International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said the government’s announcement of its decision on mandatory vaccination for care home staff was “very imminent”.
Speaking to the BBC yesterday (June 15) she said: “We need to make sure we get the balance right but I’m sure people appreciate that protecting lives is the absolute priority.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Vaccines are our way out of this pandemic and have already saved thousands of lives – with millions of health and care staff vaccinated.
“Our priority is to make sure people in care homes are protected and we launched the consultation to get views on whether and how the government might take forward a new requirement for adult care home providers, looking after older people, to only deploy staff who have had a COVID-19 vaccination or have an appropriate exemption. “The consultation has ended and we will publish our response in due course.”
Fears it may discourage recruitment
Care providers expressed dismay over the reports, the Independent Care Group (ICG) said it feared the policy might discourage people from taking up jobs in social care at a time when there are upwards of 120,000 vacancies.
ICG Chair Mike Padgham said: “I can understand why the Government has taken this decision as it is vital that we get as many people protected against Covid-19 as possible. The vaccine is very important and playing a crucial role in the pandemic.
“However, I do not like the idea of forcing people to do something against their will and would prefer it to remain a matter of personal choice rather than be compulsory.
“I think the Government hasn’t gone far enough in its efforts to persuade people of the value of the vaccine and is using the blunt instrument of legislation.
“This will without doubt create another barrier to recruitment at a time when social care providers are facing an employment crisis and struggling to fill one shift at a time.
“What about those already employed? Are employers going to have to force them to have the injection and dismiss them if they don’t? That can’t be right and will surely open the door for legal challenge.
“There has been discussion about redeploying those who won’t have the vaccine, but again that isn’t always an option, particularly for smaller operators. This whole thing seems to demonstrate once again a lack of understanding of the social care sector.
“We trust it will extend to all healthcare workers, including those taking up NHS posts. And will it become compulsory to have a flu jab in future, as for some people the flu can be a fatal illness?”
Matt McDonald, employment partner at law firm, Shakespeare Martineau, said: “Care homes have had a rocky 12 months and staff, residents and families have felt the devastating effects of COVID-19 first hand. On the one hand, requiring all care home staff to be vaccinated makes sense in the wider scheme of the vaccine rollout and takes a tricky decision out of care home owners’ hands, which will be welcomed. However, there is already an extreme staff shortage in the sector and enforcing vaccinations is unlikely to make carer or support roles any more attractive. This is a real barrier to recruitment.
“This decision may solve some problems for care homes, but it will create others, particularly in relation to recruitment. It’s a real dilemma. As a first step, care home management teams should communicate this ruling to staff and think about the practicalities of ensuring that all of their care workers are vaccinated as soon as possible.”