Following a recently leaked government paper it is reported that care workers in England could be legally required to have a Covid-19 vaccination, under new plans currently being considered by the government.
The plans are said to be a response to concerns over low vaccine take-up among staff in care homes. However, a government spokesperson has confirmed that “no final decisions have been made”.
If legislation is introduced for mandatory vaccinations of care workers, this will be unprecedented in modern times, as the only comparable UK law was the Vaccination Act of 1803 which made vaccinations against smallpox compulsory for newborns. Therefore any change in legislation requiring mandatory vaccinations is likely to raise a number of legal and ethical questions and to cause concern amongst some staff who, for a variety of reasons, have so far declined vaccination.
Best practice for ensuring Covid-19 vaccination of care workers
Whilst the Government’s position on this issue remains unclear, the focus should be continuing to encourage vaccination through voluntary means. This is particularly key for existing staff and given the third Covid wave which is being referenced for later in the year.
Bevan Brittan recommends that employers follow ‘best practice’ in this regard which includes communicating and engaging with staff to explain the rationale behind asking them to have the vaccine and providing them with clear, easy to understand and up-to-date information about the Covid-19 vaccination.
It is helpful to have discussions with staff to give them the opportunity to raise any specific concerns or queries and for employers to seek to address these. Employers should keep written records of such conversations to document the steps taken to encourage vaccination through voluntary means, in case there are disputes later down the line.
Employers should incorporate their position on Covid-19 vaccination into a written policy, which should be voluntary unless employers obtain the agreement of staff.
For employers who wish to make Covid vaccination a requirement of or pre-condition for employment, to ensure compliance and to reduce the risk of legal claims, seeking legal advice is recommended.
If you have any queries in relation to the above, please contact Jodie Sinclair.