Care home operators must be aware of the HR implications around new no jab, no job legislation requiring double COVID-19 vaccination of all staff.
The new rules will include agency workers and volunteers working in CQC registered adult care homes in England (unless medically exempt) and anyone coming into care homes to work, including tradespeople and hairdressers.
There will be a number of exemptions including under 18s, emergency services and friends and family of residents who are visiting a care home.
Law firm Mills & Reeve’s principal associates Amanda Narkiewicz and Joanna Burrows are advising care operators to engage early with their workforce.
“Early engagement with staff about the forthcoming regulations and vaccine hesitancy will enable providers to plan more effectively for the autumn when the rules come into force,” said Narkiewicz. “Care home providers should continue to actively engage with their staff, encouraging them to be vaccinated.”
Burrows added that redeployment to roles outside of care homes should be considered, although such roles are likely to be extremely limited.
“Some staff may have valid grounds to reject the vaccine if protected by discrimination legislation, including for religious belief or health-related reasons. Allowances will need to be made for those with particular protected characteristics.”
She said some care home staff will be dismissed as a result of the new legislation. It is therefore important such cases are handled carefully and sensitively. In that context, providers must ensure that a fair and reasonable procedure is followed to avoid legal challenge.
Impact on jobs
Since the Health and Social Care Secretary made the announcement, a number of care home providers and industry bodies have expressed concern that the new regulations will exacerbate existing staffing issues at a time when there are upwards of 120,000 vacancies.
Mike Padgham, chair of the Independent Care Group has claimed that the rules will become a barrier to recruitment.
If the new regulations are approved by Parliament there will be a 16-week grace period before they come into force to enable staff to be vaccinated.
Liam Scanlon of Shaw Healthcare is personally supportive of the implementation of no jab, no job, however he hopes the policy will extend to NHS frontline staff. He is concerned that it will create a two-tier system that could see care staff leaving for NHS posts if mandatory vaccination was not required in the NHS.