From November 2021 there will be a new legal requirement for staff working in care home settings in England to demonstrate proof of COVID- 19 vaccination. In addition to care home workers, other groups of UNISON members who visit care homes such as social workers and occupational therapists will also be required to demonstrate proof of vaccination. UNISON staff and activists who visit care homes for recruitment purposes or to meet with members or management will also be required to demonstrate proof of vaccination.
From 11 November proof of completed course of authorised COVID-19 vaccine doses will be a requirement for all staff who work in a care home setting in England, other than those who meet the short exemption criteria, about which there was a distinct lack of guidance and many employers believed that even medically exempt staff had to be redeployed.
Just hours before staff needed to get the first jab in order to comply this appeared:-
“On a temporary basis, from today, people working or volunteering in care homes who have a medical reason why they are unable to have a COVID-19 vaccine will be able to self-certify that they meet the medical exemption criteria, using the forms attached to this letter. Care home workers who are exempt will need to sign the form attached to this letter and give this to their employer as proof of their temporary exemption status. This temporary self-certification process has been introduced for a short period prior to the launch of the new NHS COVID Pass system which will go live imminently. Once the NHS COVID Pass system is launched, care home workers will need to apply for a formal medical exemption through that process. This temporary self-certification will expire 12 weeks after the NHS COVID Pass system is launched.”
The full announcement is here: Temporary medical exemptions for COVID-19 vaccination of people working or deployed in care homes – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
It is important to stress that this new law will not just cover care home staff, but any worker required to enter a care home setting such as a Care Quality Commission inspector, social worker or district nurse. UNISON staff and activists who might enter a care home for recruitment purposes or to support a member or meet with management will also be covered by this requirement.
UNISON opposed the introduction of mandatory vaccination believing it to be a counterproductive measure, but regulations were passed by Parliament in late July making it law that anyone who works in a care home setting has until 11 November to complete a course of authorised COVID-19 vaccine doses.
Therefore, UNISON has created this Guidance (UNISON-Guidance-for-Branches-on-Mandatory-Vaccination-in-Social-Care-final-4th-Aug (6)) for branches and members. It explains the requirements of the new law in detail along with advice on how best to support any members affected by it. This guidance provides further information on how we will support members and protect jobs.
Employers should be encouraged to provide staff with information about vaccination to help allay any concerns or counter any misconceptions they may have. They should also support their staff to access vaccination through paid time-off work. Members who choose not to take the vaccine should be supported to be redeployed by employers if possible.
The guidance also provides legal advice on what should happen if an employer insists but a member refuses to be vaccinated.
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