What is happening?
The government has finished a consultation about making COVID vaccines compulsory for health and care staff in England. They intend to bring in a new law to make COVID vaccination mandatory for anyone deployed to deliver Care Quality Commission (CQC) regulated activities who has direct, face-to-face contact with service users. This includes health and care staff with clinical and non-clinical roles, for example: care workers, health care assistants, nurses, paramedics, ODPs, receptionists, ward clerks, porters and cleaners.
What is a CQC-regulated activity?
This covers quite a lot of things like all NHS patient services, personal care in the home and in care homes whether public or private.
Anyone likely to interact with vulnerable people receiving care in health and social care settings including, but not limited to, hospitals, GP practices and also in a person’s home are in scope.
There is an exemption for Shared Lives carers, where the carer lives with the care recipient.
Who is covered by this announcement?
The announcement on mandatory COVID jabs is for health and care staff in England only at the moment.
When will these changes come into force?
The government will need to bring in new legislation that we haven’t seen yet. However, the proposed date for this to come into force is 1 April 2022.
Will there be any exemptions?
Yes, there will be some limited exemptions. These include those under 18, those clinically exempt, those taking part in a COVID trial, those without face-to-face contact and those providing care as part of a shared lives agreement.
What about making flu vaccinations compulsory?
Mandating flu vaccines were dropped following the consultation, although this will be kept under review by the government. Employers will continue to promote flu vaccinations to their staff.
What will happen if I don’t have my COVID vaccine?
Similarly to the requirement to have COVID vaccinations in care homes, the new law will make it a condition of deployment. Whilst employers should make all efforts to persuade staff to have the vaccine and look at redeployment away from a direct face-to-face role, where this is not possible, employers may have to dismiss people who continue to refuse the vaccine but do not have an allowable exemption.
What is UNISON’s stance on vaccines?
UNISON supports vaccination in health and social care. The vaccine is safe, and we have encouraged all members who do not have a medical exemption to get the jab. But vaccination should be your decision and the UK government should promote persuasion and reassurance. We have made arguments that this will result in people leaving health and care jobs, putting pressure on already stretched services.
What is UNISON doing now?
UNISON has been clear in our consultation response and announcements that we think this decision is a sledgehammer approach that will do more harm than good.
When published, UNISON will examine the draft legislation and provide further advice to branches on how to support members with questions around the vaccines.
My employer is saying I must have the vaccine now or face dismissal, what should I do?
It is likely the new legislation will come into force from 1 April 2022 giving time for people to get fully vaccinated. Your employer should be using all efforts to give you clear information about the vaccine and continue to use persuasion and encouragement. You should report any bullying or intimidation to your UNISON branch and/or employer.
Until 1 April 2022, it may not be possible for employers to dismiss staff unless they are deployed in a care home in England. If you are threatened with dismissal you should speak to your UNISON branch.