Posted: Wed 19th Jan 2022
Enterprise Nation expert adviser and associate at law firm Edwin Coe LLP, Elliot Francis, tackles the topic of mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations and the impact they could have on both employers and employees.
What’s been proposed?
The government’s latest plans are that all Care Quality Commission (CQC)-registered employers of health and social care workers (including volunteers), must be vaccinated, unless an exemption applies. These plans have now been passed as law.
The Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) (No. 2) Regulations 2022 were passed on 6 January 2022, with a ‘grace period’ up until 1 April 2022.
This grace period is intended to allow any unvaccinated workers to receive two doses of COVID-19 vaccination before the new regulations come into force. Currently, to comply, unvaccinated workers would need to have had their first dose by 3 February 2022.
What’s the response been?
The regulations have received significant criticism from the health and social care sector. There are:
concerns that a ‘full’ impact assessment has not been conducted
claims that the regulations pose a significant risk to workforce capacity
fears that lessons have not yet been learned from the existing regulations concerning care-home workers
The government consulted on the draft regulations and published the results of that consultation on 9 November 2021. Despite 65% of the people consulted being against mandatory vaccinations, the government pressed forward with its plans.
With the end of the grace period looming, the government are now facing urgent requests to reconsider. On 12 January 2022, The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) appealed to the government for an immediate delay (on top of the grace period already in place) to the regulations.
Gill Walton, chief executive of the RCM, said:
“Since the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine, the RCM has been urging its eligible midwife and maternity support worker members to have the jab to protect themselves, their families and the women and families they care for.
“We believe it’s the right thing to do and we believe in the science. However, we do not believe mandatory vaccination is the correct approach, and actively argued against the proposal. Levels of vaccination in the NHS are high and rising and we should be using discussion and education to increase vaccination among NHS staff, not the hammer blow of mandating it.
“I appeal to the Health Secretary to reconsider his decision and to delay the implementation. Moving forward with mandatory vaccination could only see staffing levels fall further. The government has opened a Pandora’s Box of unforeseen consequences – but there is an opportunity now to close it.”
It remains to be seen whether the government will listen to further requests concerning the regulations. Even with this mounting pressure, employers and employees alike must continue to assume that the regulations will come into force on 1 April 2022 and take appropriate action.