The Government has announced that people working in care homes in England must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 from October 2021, unless they have a medical exemption, write Rachel Murray-Smith and Francesca Gallagher.
The announcement, which follows a government consultation on mandatory vaccination for care home workers, is intended to protect residents against death and serious illness.
The new legislation means that from October 2021, subject to Parliamentary approval and a subsequent 16-week grace period, anyone working or volunteering in a Care Quality Commission (CQC) – registered care home in England must have had 2 doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, unless they have a medical exemption.
The new regulations will apply to all workers employed directly by a CQC-registered care home (on a full-time or part-time basis), those employed by an agency, as well as volunteers. It will also apply to those coming into care homes for additional services, such as tradespeople and hairdressers. Those who are not vaccinated will risk being redeployed from the front-line or even losing their job.
The decision for Covid-19 vaccinations to be mandatory for care home workers has already provoked much debate. Given the significant number of Covid-19 fatalities in care homes since the beginning of the pandemic, it is understandable that the Government is seeking to do all it can to protect the vulnerable. However, some worry that these new regulations will deter potential new recruits into a sector which is already heavily understaffed.
The law will be implemented through an amendment to Regulation 12 (Safe Care and Treatment) of the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014 (“the Regulations”), and it will be the responsibility of care home managers to ensure that their workers are abiding by these new rules.
A draft version of the Regulations can be found here: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukdsi/2021/9780348224993
The draft Regulations are waiting to be approved by both Houses of Parliament before they can be made. That means;
(a) consideration by a committee in the Commons followed by formal approval in the chamber; and
(b) a debate in the chamber in the Lords.
Other committees may also scrutinise and report on the Regulations.
The Government intends to lay the Regulations before Parliament “at the earliest opportunity” and, if approved, there will be a 16-week grace period before the Regulations come into force, to allow staff time to obtain the two doses required for full vaccination.
We will be monitoring the passage of the new Regulations through Parliament and providing updates on progress. With these impending Regulations on the horizon, it is important that contracting authorities consider the appropriate action to take in relation to their current and future contracts for all works and services in care home settings. In order to comply with the compulsory vaccination requirements, contracts which relate to care homes will need to include a requirement for tradespeople and any other working visitors/service provider staff, to be fully vaccinated.
Rachel Murray-Smith is a partner and Francesca Gallagher is a paralegal at Sharpe Pritchard LLP.
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