Could Covid-19 vaccinations become compulsory for frontline NHS workers?
Six weeks of consultation has now commenced to see whether frontline NHS workers will be required to have received both Covid-19 vaccinations in the same manner as care home workers which are regulated by the Care Quality Commission. Unless workers in care homes are medically exempt, then from 11th November 2021 it will be mandatory for them to be double jabbed.
The consultation period will decide whether both Covid-19 vaccines could become a condition of employment for those front line staff who are patient facing. The consultation will also discuss whether the flu vaccine should also become compulsory. The outcome could affect up to 1.2 million frontline workers within the NHS.
Most frontline NHS workers have already received the vaccine with reports of up to 92% receiving the first jab and 88% already being double jabbed. Therefore, if plans proceed then up to 120,000 frontline NHS staff who have not already received the vaccine will be required by law to do so as part of their terms of employment.
Health and social care secretary Sajid Javid has commented on the commencement of the consultation
“Many patients being treated in hospitals and other clinical settings are most at risk of suffering serious consequences of Covid-19, and we must do what we can to protect them. It’s so clear to see the impact vaccines have against respiratory viruses which can be fatal to the vulnerable, and that’s why we’re exploring mandatory vaccines for both Covid-19 and flu.”
However, the proposals have been met with some hostility with some claiming that the move is unnecessary. Unions have also raised concerns, claiming that by making the vaccine mandatory will lead to “an exodus of staff.”
Sara Gorton, head of health at Unison has commented
“Pushing NHS staff to get vaccinated will create resentment, destroy already fragile morale and reduce take-up"
The results of the consultation period could be more far reaching than just NHS workers as many private companies operate within or are suppliers to the NHS. Therefore, it is likely that any decision will have far reaching consequences for frontline workers, whether NHS or not. Employers should therefore start to consider the impact of mandatory vaccinations within their workforce. Employers should consider whether they need to consult with their workers regarding changes to terms and conditions of employment to ensure that compulsory vaccinations is a condition of employment.
Businesses should be cautious and it is advisable to obtain legal advice before considering changing terms and conditions of employment to ensure that they are acting lawfully and fairly.