15 September 2021
The arbitration service Acas has published advice to help employees and employers at care homes in England understand the new government rules around vaccination.
From 11 November, anyone who works inside a Care Quality Commission (CQC) registered care home in England must be fully vaccinated against coronavirus (Covid-19) unless they are exempt.
This means that 16 September is the date when someone should have received the first dose of a 2-dose Covid-19 vaccine so that they have time to receive a second dose by 11 November.
Acas Chief Executive, Susan Clews, said: “Care home staff across England need to be prepared for the upcoming change in the law around vaccinations, which kicks in from 11 November. Workers may not have yet received two vaccinations and some staff may be concerned that they won’t get a second vaccination in time for the legal change. Others could be unsure if they are exempt from the new rule.”
Noting that employers will want to take all the necessary steps to retain care home staff and the skills they bring to their role, the advice from Acas is that they should have regular discussions about the new law with staff and any recognised trade union representatives or employee representatives before 11 November.
This can help retain staff and avoid resignations or dismissals. Acas suggests.
Depending on the circumstances, employers might be able to consider other options. For example, they might agree for the employee to:
do suitable alternative work outside the care home premises, in an office or another place where they do not need to be vaccinated
take short-term paid or unpaid leave, if they are waiting to get the vaccine or proof of exemption
do training that can be done from home or away from the workplace for a limited time.
If the employer has explored all available options and if a staff member continues to refuse to get the vaccine then the worker could be subject to a disciplinary procedure.
Acas advice is that this procedure must be fair, which includes offering the employee the right to appeal any decision.
Comment by Kate Palmer, HR Advice and Consultancy Director at Peninsula
This Acas guidance will be useful to employers, although not legally binding.
It shows that, despite a judicial review having been initiated on the legality of these regulations, employers are still being encouraged to prepare for the 11 November 2021 cut-off.
This is because there is no guarantee that the regulations will be overturned and employers will find that it is better to remain prepared now than be caught off guard later.