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Our employment expert, Laura Liddle, provides an update on the latest guidance surrounding compulsory Covid-19 vaccinations.

Care homes

From Thursday 11 November 2021 all care home workers, unless they are exempt, must have received both of their Covid-19 vaccinations in order to continue in their employment. This requirement will extend to all people visiting a care home in a professional capacity unless they are exempt.

Frontline NHS workers

The Government have announced that they will extend the requirement for compulsory vaccinations to all frontline NHS England staff, unless they are exempt. The news follows a consultation which commenced earlier this year and will apply to all workers in patient facing roles.

At present it is estimated that approximately 103,000 NHS England workers have not had their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccination. It is expected that the deadline will be set for April 2022 as this will allow time for unvaccinated NHS England workers to receive both Covid-19 vaccinations.

Background

Matt Hancock, former Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, has justified the step by explaining that the requirements for doctors to have the Hepatitis B vaccine sets a “clear precedent” that should be applied to Covid-19 vaccinations. Although mandatory vaccinations for frontline NHS workers is not a new concept such vaccination decisions are historically a trust decision not a legislative requirement.

Although more detail is yet to be announced it is likely that the requirements will follow the steps set to require all care home workers to be fully vaccinated.

More guidance is expected as the booster vaccinations are being rolled out but at present the legislation applies to the first and second doses of the Covid-19 vaccination.

Conversations between employer and employee

It has been acknowledged by the government that this decision will result in some NHS England workers refusing to be fully vaccinated and this would mean they cannot continue in their role. As has already been experienced in the care home sector, this refusal has led to some care home workers having their employment contracts terminated.

Where a worker is refusing a compulsory vaccination the employer should take the time to discuss this decision and explore whether the individual has a specified health exemption. The worker should be made aware that the Covid-19 vaccination is compulsory and that a refusal may result in the termination of their employment.

In some instances it may be possible for an alternative role to be found for the worker which would allow them to continue in their employment without breaching the new laws. These should be fully explored. The worker should be encouraged to discuss their concerns regarding receiving the vaccination with a healthcare professional or to call NHS 119.

If a worker continues to refuse a mandatory Covid-19 vaccination and there is not a suitable alternative role which would allow the worker to continue employment without a vaccination, then their employment will come to an end. The employee must be given notice of the termination of their employment, or paid in lieu of notice if their contract allows, and ensure they are paid for or use their holiday entitlement.

If you would like advice on the issues of Covid-19 vaccinations, absences or dismissals please contact either Nick Smith or Laura Liddle of the Mincoffs Employment Team. Alternatively, you can complete the enquiry form below.

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