The Department of Health and Social Care consultation on making vaccination a condition of employment in care homes is to close on 21 May. Putting aside the moral and legal arguments about implementing such a policy, the most significant concern is the prospect of a high proportion of staff being dismissed from their jobs and excluded from the sector because they are hesitant about having the vaccine.
James Sage, Employment Partner and Head of Social Care at Royds Withy King comments.
“There is increasing evidence towards the efficacy of the government’s vaccine programme, and it is perhaps understandable why the government might wish to make vaccination a condition of employment in care homes, particularly given the large number of care home deaths during the pandemic. But has the government considered the catastrophic implications for staff retention and recruitment in the sector?
“Vaccine take-up by care staff varies across England. Nationally 80.4% of care home staff have had the vaccine, but recent data also indicates that 76 of 149 local authority areas do not have 80% of care home staff vaccinated, 17 local authority areas have less than 70% vaccinated and the lowest rate of uptake is 52.4%.
“If the Government were to adopt its proposal, care providers face having to dismiss, on average, 20% of their workforce and for some providers it would be significantly more.
“The consultation document has been drafted on the premise that care staff who refuse to have the vaccine can be redeployed, an approach adopted by the NHS, but that is simply not possible in the care sector.
“The prospect of losing such a significant proportion of care home staff when the sector is already facing a jobs crisis, with over 100,000 existing vacancies, increased restrictions on overseas recruitment, and growing demand for staff from retail, hospitality and leisure sectors emerging from lockdown, is unthinkable.
“In light of these concerns it is entirely possible this proposal is quietly kicked into the long grass.”