Last reviewed 19 January 2022

New guidance has been published on the implementation of the Vaccination as a Condition of Deployment (VCOD) policy, which says from 4 February 2022 unvaccinated health and care staff should be invited to a meeting, in person or virtually, and informed that a potential outcome may be dismissal.

The NHS England guidance said that redeployment of unvaccinated staff should be considered but “may not be feasible or practical” for “many providers”.

On 6 January 2022, new legislation amended the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014, to extend the scope of mandatory vaccination requirements for staff beyond registered care homes to health and wider social care settings in England. They must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 with two vaccines by 1 April 2022, meaning they must have had their first vaccine on 3 February.

The guidance from NHS England states: “It is important to note this is not a redundancy exercise. In the context of the regulations, there is no diminishment or cessation of work of a particular kind.

“Employers will not be concerned with finding ‘suitable alternative employment’ and there will be no redundancy entitlements, including payments, whether statutory or contractual, triggered by this process.

“The redeployment or dismissal of workers is determined by the introduction of the regulations and an individual’s decision to remain unvaccinated.

“Whilst organisations are encouraged to explore redeployment, the general principles which apply in a redundancy exercise are not applicable here, and it is important that managers are aware of this.”

The document says employers should engage and work with their trade union or “staff side representatives” as to the formal measures being taken “in respect of redeployment processes and potential dismissals of staff due to VCOD”.

Alternative options for unvaccinated staff, such as any possible adjustments to their current role, should be explored. It added: “Employers should consider an individual’s reasons for declining to be vaccinated and examine options short of dismissal, where appropriate. However, if it’s not feasible to implement alternative solutions, staff will be taken through a formal process to dismissal.”

It said any such process must be ‘fair and reasonable” and staff must be given “reasonable opportunity” to be vaccinated or provide evidence they are exempt before action is taken.

Meanwhile, the guidance also said that employers can access the vaccination status of their employees themselves from NHS England’s immunisation database, making it easier for both staff and their managers.

There are no plans for Scottish and Welsh Governments to introduce mandatory Covid and flu vaccinations for healthcare staff, and Northern Ireland is planning a public consultation on making Covid vaccination compulsory for “new recruits” but no date for consultation has been announced.

Vaccination as a Condition of Deployment (VCOD) for Healthcare Workers: VCOD Phase 2 – Implementation guidance is available here.