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Government launches consultation on mandatory vaccines for frontline care staff

Alan Price, CEO - BrightHR

The care minister and Government are urging care home worker to go out and get vaccinated despite preliminary legal proceedings being lodged against them. A consultation will start today on making both the Covid and flu vaccines mandatory for frontline workers in health and care settings in England.

6 in 10 care homes may be forced to redeploy or lose staff if the new rule remains in place.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid has been asked to explain the legal standing of the new regulations in the context of an existing law, namely the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 which prohibits a requirement for people to undergo medical treatment, including vaccinations.

If a full legal challenge is launched, it puts care home owners into a very tricky position. Many companies have taken initial steps to comply with the new rules costing them both time and money and some have already informed their employees of the need to provide the required evidence and the consequences of not doing so.

Alan Price is CEO of Bright HR. He says: “Talk of an official legal challenge to the new law has been around for some weeks and it seems that we are now just around the corner from formal action. Care home bosses are coming under increased pressure from their staff to explain why they are being forced to have the vaccine, but the reality is that these employers are caught in the middle because the decision is not one for them to make. It is the Government’s actions that workers have an issue with.

“With the November 11th deadline getting closer each day, it seems that the Government has no plans of backing down. Filling the roles of unvaccinated staff will prove difficult as agencies continue to struggle to recruit new workers.

“As it stands 88% of NHS staff members have received the first dose but the Government also appears to be pushing health care workers to get the yearly flu vaccine. This proposal will protect staff, which is particularly important for hospital trusts where extensive unexpected staff absences can put added pressure on clinicians providing patient care during busy periods, like winter.

“It seems likely that health care employers will soon be required to undergo a process to check that their frontline workers can prove they are either fully vaccinated against both COVID and flu, or that they are medically exempt. A deadline date for providing evidence of vaccination status may be given (like with care homes in England), and if staff cannot provide evidence then employers may have to consider redeployment.

“Those who don’t get the vaccine and are not medically exempt could be moved to roles that don’t involve frontline work or physical patient care.  Care Minister, Helen Whatley, has suggested this could be working on the NHS 111 phone line, for example, where people can access non-emergency medical advice over the phone.

“It’s interesting that the Government is today launching a separate consultation on mandatory COVID and flu vaccines in wider healthcare settings. Some might see this as an indication of confidence in being able to rebut the care home challenge. One thing is for sure; employers need clarity over whether their workers need to have the vaccine and they need it fast.

“For the safety of their business, employers should start to prepare for the introduction of the law so that they remain on the front foot. This could include how and when you would tell workers about the law; what potential redeployment opportunities there might be and how you might run recruitment drives if you were to lose workers because of the new law. Employers must also consider how they would store workers’ vaccine information. It’s important that the process is introduced as quickly as possible.”

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