Covid-19: Tricky issues for employers – Care Home Vaccinations
As Covid-19 restrictions have gradually eased, and with the return to the workplace for many, we are now starting to see some common tricky issues for employers as we try to transition back to ‘normal’ working lives whilst continuing to live with the virus.
We have prepared 3 helpful articles to provide some guidance on some of the key issues that employers have been asking us recently.
In this the first of our articles, we will talk about care home vaccinations.
Care home vaccinations
From 11 November 2021, anyone working or volunteering in a care home will need to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19, having had both doses of the vaccine, unless they are exempt. The new legislation extends beyond requiring just individuals employed by the care home concerned to be vaccinated, but also includes all those workers employed by an agency and deployed by the care home as well as volunteers who enter the care home. This means that anyone coming into care homes to do other work, for example tradespeople, hairdressers or healthcare workers, will also be required to be vaccinated. Anyone who enters a care home after this date as part of their professional responsibilities will need to show proof of their vaccination status unless they are exempt.
This mandatory vaccination scheme clearly poses some difficulties for employers in the social care sector who now must balance the requirement for staff to be vaccinated and the safety of care home residents, against the rights of their employees who may have genuine reasons for not wanting to be vaccinated.
This will be an even greater issue where care homes don’t want agencies to send them any agency staff who are unvaccinated, even if the agency staff person has a valid reason and may be exempt (i.e., is pregnant or has a disability making vaccination dangerous). If the agency is unable to provide vaccinated staff to their clients, this may result in them losing some of their clients and in turn, loss of revenue.
From an employment law perspective, as the Government have mandated vaccinations in this setting, it will be far easier for employers to be able to discipline and even dismiss these unvaccinated workers without being faced with an unfair dismissal or discrimination claim where they are simply ensuring they are complying with the law and the recently issued associated guidance.
However, employers should always be mindful that some staff members may be unable to have the vaccine, for example due to a disability, and in these cases, employers should consider carefully what adjustments could be made or other changes to the employees working environment to try to prevent a dismissal and to avoid a potential claim for discrimination. Likewise, any fair dismissal will also require a period of consultation and the examination of whether any other roles are available where vaccination is not needed.
The ruling also assists employers in relation to the recruitment of staff in the social care setting as these employers can now mandate that they will only employ individuals who are vaccinated as otherwise they will not be eligible to enter the care home and carry out their role.
If you need any further advice in any of these areas, or are looking for some employment advice generally, please do get in touch with our team, we would be happy to help.