The government must immediately repeal ‘no jab, no job’ laws for care home staff in England to avert a staffing crisis that threatens to overwhelm the sector, says the public service union, UNISON.
The mandatory vaccination rule is pushing thousands to the brink of quitting care work and ministers are “sleepwalking into a disaster” by failing to act, says the union.
Care home staff have until September 16 to get their first vaccination or face the sack. UNISON says it is receiving concerning reports of care homes struggling to meet levels of staffing that comply with safety requirements set by the Care Quality Commission.
Mandatory vaccination has been a massive distraction from the core job of care, says UNISON. It has also diverted time and resources from employers and government when they should have been seeking to boost trust and confidence in the vaccine.
UNISON is also calling for an urgent cash injection to boost pay to at least the real living wage rate of £9.50 an hour (£10.85 in London), and attract recruits to what are crucial and skilled roles.
UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Vaccination remains the way out of the pandemic. But coercing and bullying people can never be the right approach.
“Ministers have been told repeatedly that using force instead of persuasion will fail. But they’ve not listened and now their ill-considered policy is backfiring.
“The government is sleepwalking into this disaster by not acting. Care is already a broken and underfunded sector that cannot afford to lose any more staff.
“The government must scrap the ‘no jab, no job’ rule now. Widespread care home closures could be the consequence if they ignore the warnings. This would be disastrous for elderly people and those who cannot live without care support.”
Meanwhile research in Yorkshire has shown that around one in four care home staff in Kirklees have still not had two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, sparking fears the care crisis could plunge to new depths just before Christmas.
Bradford has similarly poor levels of uptake for staff in care homes and jabs for staff in ‘other settings’ is incredibly low in York. Fewer than one in three carers in these environments in York have had two vaccinations.