Mandatory vaccinations for care home staff
Parliament has approved the new Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2021 (Regulations) which makes it mandatory for any individual working in a care home to be fully vaccinated against Coronavirus.
After an initial grace period of 16 weeks, the Regulations will make it mandatory for any “registered person” providing residential accommodation together with personal care to have ensured that individuals entering the premises have received the complete course of an authorised vaccine against Coronavirus. A “registered person” is a person who is the service provider or the registered manager in respect of providing the personal care.
The Regulations are not limited to employees working in care homes but also apply to agency workers, volunteers and those entering the care home for maintenance reasons, such as tradespeople. The onus is on the registered person to ensure no non-resident over the age of 18 enters the care home until they have provided evidence that they have been fully vaccinated or there are clinical reasons as to why they are unable to be vaccinated.
There are exceptions where an unvaccinated person is still able to enter to the home. This is permitted to enable people to provide emergency care or assistance, visit a service user, enable a family member to visit a service user who is dying or to provide urgent maintenance to the premises.
The Regulations extend to both England and Wales but will only apply to care homes in England. The Regulations will also be reviewed every 12 months.
What happens if an employee refuses to have the vaccine?
Employers will have a duty to explore the reasons for any employee’s refusal to be vaccinated. If the employee is not medically exempt, then the employer may have to dismiss the employee subject to usual employment law principles.
Employers should ensure that all employees and individuals entering the care home for work are made aware of the requirement to be vaccinated and to provide evidence of the same. Employers should ensure that prompt action is taken in respect of any employee who refuses to have the vaccination, or fails to provide the required evidence, and that all employees are treated consistently. For employees with more than two years’ service (and some employees with less than two years’ service), the Employer will need to go through a full and fair procedure before considering a dismissal on notice.
Guidance states that employers should have vaccination policies which outlines the procedure for those who are required to be fully vaccinated. Our Employment & HR are able to assist with drafting a policy and deal with any employment issues related to the Regulations.