Currently, only workers in Care Quality Commission regulated care homes are subject to mandatory vaccination, with the remaining workers in the health and social care sector as a whole joining them from 1 April 2022.
However, the Government has now amended its position on mandatory vaccination after considering the increased vaccination numbers and the reduced severity of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 compared to the Delta variant.
On 31 January 2022, Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, announced the Government's intention to revoke regulations relating to mandatory vaccination in the health and social care sector and care homes, subject to a two-week statutory consultation and parliamentary approval. Whilst the consultation suggests that the Government has not come to a conclusion on this, the Secretary of State confirmed that ‘the Government have made their decision’ and the 2-week consultation is a legal requirement that it must follow.
The Government now believes that mandatory vaccinations in the health and social care sector is not a proportionate requirement to protecting vulnerable individuals from Covid. Instead, it believes that ‘Covid is here to stay’ and that we must learn to live with it.
Another factor in this U-turn is the impact that widening the regulations would have on the NHS, which would have potentially led to an increase in falling staff numbers, with unvaccinated staff facing dismissal.
The decision to revoke the mandatory vaccination requirement will affect any employers that currently have, or are looking to introduce, a mandatory vaccination policy. It will be very difficult for employers to suggest that mandatory vaccination should be implemented when the Government now considers that workers in the health and social care sector (the sector with the highest number of ‘front line’ workers) do not need to be.
In relation to dismissals that have already taken place because of the legal requirement to be vaccinated in the care sector, the Government has confirmed that the ‘policy was right at the time’ and so the decision to revoke the regulations will not affect these dismissals. The Government has also stated that if an employee had been dismissed for a reason in relation to mandatory vaccinations, they could now reapply for their position (if they are still available), but they would not have continuity of employment, meaning they would have to work for another two years to regain the right to bring an unfair dismissal claim.
From: Legal correspondence.