Mandatory Vaccinations to be Extended

Currently, COVID-19 vaccinations are only mandatory, as a matter of law, for those working in care homes. However, this is set to change from 1 April 2022, when the mandatory vaccination requirement is scheduled to be extended to those working in "any other regulated activity" outside a care home. The regulated activities include, but are not limited to, nursing and personal care, and most forms of health care including medical treatment, surgery, diagnostic services, ambulance services, midwifery and dentistry.

Whilst the Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, commented on 25 January that the government is “reflecting” on this policy in wake of the Omicron variant, as things stand, any individual whose employment in a regulated activity, and who does not fall within one of the exemptions, must have had their first vaccine by 3 February 2022 to ensure the continuation of their employment.

There are to be a number of exemptions to when this vaccination requirement will apply, including where the person is under 18, is clinically exempt, has no face-to-face contact with service users, or where the regulated activity is part of a "shared lives agreement". It is expected that there will be similar exemptions applicable in relation to clinical trials and new employees who have only received one dose of vaccine.

Given the timescale, employers need to act quickly to inform their employees that they must have their first COVID-19 vaccination by 3 February 2022 and if they do not, this will trigger the start of a process which may lead to their dismissal on 31 March 2022, in order that the employer can comply with the law. Following this, employers need to consider which members of staff will be affected by the new law, whether a termination exercise is necessary and whether redeployment is possible in the event the employee is not willing to be vaccinated. Employers should consider having internal processes in place to allow for transparency and consistency. This is likely to be in the form of vaccination policies in which employers outline their stance on COVID-19 vaccinations and help to encourage vaccinations amongst their staff.

One point for employers to consider is how to advertise jobs moving forward. Where mandatory vaccination is required for a job, job adverts can specify this, however, employers will need to be careful with the wording of such adverts to ensure that they do not exclude those who are exempt from vaccination.

If you require any clarification on any of the above or if you wish to discuss this in more detail, please contact our Employment Team to arrange an appointment.