On 9 November 2021, following a public consultation, the Department of Health and Social Care announced that providers of CQC regulated activities in the health and social care sector must only deploy individuals who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 into roles where they have direct, face to face contact with patients and service users. The decision follows the mandatory vaccination of care home workers which came into force in England on 11 November 2021.
The proposals extend mandatory vaccination requirements to all health and social care workers such as doctors, nurses dentists and domiciliary care workers. The new rules will also capture non-clinical workers not directly involved in patient care such as porters and cleaners, receptionists and ward clerks. The rules will apply whether the individual delivers their services directly, through an agency or if they are contracted to another provider. They will also cover trainees and volunteers.
The government’s announcement stated that the requirements will come into force in the spring, subject to the passage of the regulations through Parliament. There will be a 12-week grace period between the regulations being made and coming into force to allow those who have not yet been vaccinated to have both doses. Enforcement would begin from 1 April, subject to Parliamentary approval. The government hopes this plan will allow time for health and social care providers to prepare and encourage workers uptake before the measures are introduced.
Key Action Points for Human Resources and In-house Counsel
Mandatory vaccinations are now required by law in England in the care home sector, with the health and social care sector soon to follow, but this is currently not the case for roles outside those sectors. This is unlike the position in a number of other countries around the world where mandatory vaccination appears to be gathering momentum. In the UK the government currently only advises encouraging employees to take up the vaccine and notes that vaccinations are not suitable for everyone. There are a number of legal risks to consider when implementing a mandatory vaccination policy and employers should tread very carefully weighing up those risks against their health and safety obligations. The first step should be to undertake a detailed health and safety risk assessment.