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COVID-19 vaccinations are set to become compulsory for staff working in care homes for the elderly in England, with an announcement set to be made by the government in the next few days and a consultation on extending this within the health and care sector to be launched.


Since its rollout, nearly 42 million people in the UK have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccination, with just over 30 million having received both doses. As the programme has progressed, there has been a lot of debate on whether it should become compulsory to have the vaccine and whether employers can require employees to take the vaccine.

According to a consultation by the Department of Health and Social Care in April this year, 47% of care homes for the elderly in England had more than a fifth of staff yet to be vaccinated – in a sector where there have been more than 40,000 deaths due to Covid-19.

Laura Kearsley, partner and solicitor specialising in employment law at Nelsons, said:

“Employers in the health and care sectors will be very keen for their staff to benefit from a Covid-19 vaccine. Having a full complement of vaccinated employees will mean a dramatic reduction in the risk of the virus and less concern for the employer when it comes to transmission to vulnerable patients and service users and to others in the workplace.

“That being said, it might not necessarily be as simple as they think. The reports indicate that care staff will be given 16 weeks to have the jab or face being moved away from frontline duties, or where that isn’t possible, losing their jobs. Those who cannot have the vaccine on medical grounds will be exempt.

“The worry for the care sector is the impact this might have on recruitment and staff retention, given that there is already a shortage of staff in this sector. The detail of how this is to be implemented remains to be seen but this unprecedented move could prove unpopular with care staff who do not wish to have the vaccine”

What’s next for employers in the care sector?

“Until these proposals are implemented, we continue to recommend that you encourage your staff to be vaccinated rather than taking any steps to insist on this if they are reluctant.  We’d advise our clients to do this by ensuring staff have access to reliable information about the vaccine, so they’re able to make an informed choice, and even to allow paid time off for vaccination appointments.”

What about other sectors, does this create a precedent for a “no jab, no job” policy?

“An employer cannot compel you to be vaccinated if you do not wish to be so. However, it may be within their rights – depending on the circumstances – to take action if you are not going to be vaccinated and they think there are good reasons why you should be. In some circumstances, employees could in fact be dismissed for refusing the vaccination if it means they will present a threat to others.

“If your employer is insisting you get the vaccine but you are unsure, then you should flag and discuss any concerns with your employer and see what can be agreed. Unless you are employed in a sector and/or a job role where there are pressing health and safety reasons for you to have the vaccine, an employer is not likely to be able to insist you get it or be able to take action against you for not doing so. 

“However, it’s always worth bearing in mind that employees who have less than two years’ service do not have the right to claim unfair dismissal – except in certain limited cases – and that those who provide their services on a self-employed or zero hours basis might also be less protected from their employer’s decisions.”

For more employment law advice from Nelsons, please visit

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