As I am sure you are aware since November 2021, those people who work in Care Quality Commission (CQC) regulated homes are required to have the Covid-19 vaccine, unless they have an exception such as a medical condition.
At the time this caused a stir, with many workers feeling pressurised to have the vaccine or risk losing their jobs.
The plan was to extend the mandatory vaccine requirement from 1 April 2022 to workers in the health and social care sector, again this was met with much criticism.
I considered that the only time having a mandatory vaccine policy within the workplace would be reasonable, would be within health and social care. This is because, in my view, an employer could reasonably argue that the health and safety risk would outweigh anything else. Of course, even within this sector there are risks to such a policy and employer’s still need to be mindful of potential discrimination claims.
However, the argument that mandatory vaccines are required for workers within the health and social care sectors has perhaps been diminished by the government’s easing of restrictions. Further, many workers were opposed to the idea, and it was possible that key services, such as the NHS would be left with fewer staff as a result of implementing the policy.
In the circumstances, the government published a consultation on the 9 February 2022 seeking opinion on revoking the vaccine requirement across all health and social care settings, due to a change in clinical guidance.
The government published its response to the consultation on 1 March 2022, which found that 90% of those who responded to the consultation, opposed the mandatory vaccine requirement and therefore, agreed for it to be revoked.
Interestingly, the majority of individuals in favour of revoking the policy were members of the public. With the vast majority of those in support actually working within the health and social care sector.
As a result of the consultation, the government has decided to revoke the existing regulations and those which were due to come into force on 15 March 2022. However, the government maintains that those who work within health and social care have a duty to have the Covid-19 vaccination, unless they have an exemption. As such they intend to continue to work with the sectors to encourage vaccine take up among employees.
This means that those workers who are engaged by CQC regulated care homes are no longer required to have the vaccine to enable them to continue in their role. This decision of course comes too late for those employees who either felt pressured into having the vaccine or refused and were dismissed as a result.
I wonder whether, in light of the current position, the outcome of any claims for unfair dismissal pursued by those who were dismissed for not complying with the regulations, will be affected by the decision? Or, whether the Employment Tribunal will take the view that employers acted fair and reasonably based on the government guidance at that time? Only time will tell, but it is interesting consideration for us employment lawyers!
Overall, I believe that this decision will weaken an employer’s argument to implement a mandatory vaccine policy within the workplace no or in the future.
If you have any questions in relation to the revocation of the requirement to have the Covid-19 vaccine, then please do not hesitate to contact us on 01983 897003.