Government Consultation: Should it be mandatory for care home staff with older residents to be vaccinated against COVID-19?

On 14 April 2021 the Department for Health and Social Care launched a consultation, ending on Friday 21 May 2021, on whether or not the Government should make it mandatory for staff in care homes caring for older adults to have received their COVID-19 vaccination.

As the time to respond is imminent we set out the key points of the consultation below.

Position Pre-Consultation
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) has advised that in order to protect staff and residents in care homes for older adults against a COVID-19 outbreak, 80% of staff and 90% of residents need to be vaccinated. However, before this consultation began, only 53% of older adult care homes in England met this threshold.

As of 8 April 2021, the staff vaccination rate was below 80% in 89 local authority areas, which makes up over half of the local authority areas in the country. This means that, based on the recommended figures provided by SAGE, that 150,000 people are currently vulnerable from COVID-19 outbreaks in care homes for older adults.

Purpose of Consultation
Whilst some providers have already begun to implement similar policies to those recommended by SAGE, the consultation is designed to seek views from care providers, staff, stakeholders, residents and their families on the proposal, its scope, the potential impact it could have on staffing and safety and how it could be implemented.

The consultation aims to help inform the decision-making of the Government around how any potential change could be executed and whether respondents think that the proposal would be beneficial.

Exceptions to the Proposed Amendments
It is proposed that there would be an exemption for care staff who can provide evidence to support the fact that they cannot have the COVID-19 vaccination due to medical grounds. However, that is the only exemption proposed by the Government within the consultation and does not provide for any exemptions for religion or religious beliefs, which could leave employers open to legal challenges and damage employer-employee relationships.

Potential Outcomes of the Consultations
Depending on the comments received back, the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014 could be amended to make it mandatory (the law) for those working in adult care homes to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Deadline for Response
The deadline for responding to the consultation is Friday 21 May 2021.

If you are considering formulating a response to the consultation and would like to discuss this further, please contact Katie Maguire, Partner in our Employment Team and Employment lead in the Devonshires’ Care Group.

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