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Managers expected to cover staff shortages caused by mandatory vaccines

Care staff

By Jess Hacker
5 August 2021

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Care home managers and service providers are expected to cover employee shortfalls caused by mandatory vaccination of staff themselves, the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) has instructed.

The new policy – which will now come into force on 11 November – will require care home staff in England have two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, with ‘fair reason for dismissal’ if they fail to meet this criteria and are not exempt.

Despite this, the DHSC yesterday (4 August) reiterated that care homes should ‘already have contingency plans’ in place to cover staff shortages which ‘may affect the safe running of the service’.

It said: ‘Wherever possible, we would expect the registered person to take reasonable steps to cover the staff shortfalls themselves in the short term through the use of bank or agency staff.’

It added that where this is not an option, managers should contact their local authority who may be able to ‘signpost’ them to similar sources.

This comes after a recent impact assessment (19 July), it estimated that as many as 40,000 (7%) of the 570,000 working in CQC-registered care homes may be unvaccinated at the end of a 16-week grace period.

The last date for care home workers to get their first dose to be fully vaccinated ahead of the change will be 16 September. 

The DHSC has also confirmed it will launch a further consultation to extend the regulation to other healthcare staff.

The policy has been previously criticised as the ‘wrong approach and a massive distraction’.

CQC to regulate new mandate

The new guidance also said the registered manager of the care home will be responsible for ensuring those who enter are vaccinated. 

However, the CQC will be responsible for monitoring and enforcing the rule on mandatory vaccination. 

There are exemptions to the regulation, including those who are under 18 and those who are medically exempt from getting the vaccine. 

Those who enter to provide emergency assistance or urgent maintenance can also be allowed in without the jab, but the guidance said this decision was up to the registered manager of the care home to make.

However, lack of vaccination is a reason for fair dismissal, the document confirmed. 

It said: ‘Where a member of staff is not vaccinated and cannot provide evidence that they are exempt, care homes should explore all options. This includes redeployment into any alternative role where vaccination or medical exemption is not required. This could include roles without direct contact with residents outside of the care home (for example at a head office).

‘Some care homes – having exhausted alternative options – may have to consider dismissing employees or terminating contracts of workers. This should only apply to those over 18 who are not vaccinated and have not obtained a medical exemption. Where this is the case, care homes must comply, at all times, with employment and equalities law and adhere to good employment practice.’

It comes after the DHSC’s assessment on the policy found that there was a ‘significant degree of uncertainty’ about the impact mandatory vaccinations would have.

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