Following on from our last blog on Mandatory Vaccines, the latest plans by the Government to require all CQC registered employers of health and social care workers, including volunteers, to be vaccinated (unless an exemption applies), have been passed as law. The Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) (No. 2) Regulations 2022 (the “Regulations”) were passed on 6 January 2022, with a ‘grace period’ meaning that the Regulations come into effect on 1 April 2022. This grace period is intended to allow any unvaccinated workers to receive two doses of Covid-19 vaccination before the Regulations bite. Currently unvaccinated workers would need to have had their first dose by 3 February 2022 to comply.
The Regulations have received significant criticism from the health and social care sector with concerns that a ‘full’ impact assessment has not been conducted, claims that the Regulations pose a significant workforce capacity risk and fears that lessons have not been learned yet from the already implemented regulations concerning care home workers.
The Government consulted on the draft Regulations and published the results of that consultation on 9 November 2021 (please see link). Despite 65% of respondents not supporting mandatory vaccinations, the government pressed forward with its plans.
With D-Day looming, urgent requests are now being made of the government. On 12 January 2022, The Royal College of Midwives (RCM), a trade union and professional association dedicated to serving midwifery and representing around 48,000 midwives, appealed to the government for an immediate delay (further to the grace period already in place) to the implementation of the Regulations. Gill Walton, Chief Executive of the RCM, said,
“Since the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine the RCM has been urging its eligible midwife and maternity support worker members to have the jab to protect themselves, their families and the women and families they care for. We believe that it’s the right thing to do and we believe in the science. However, we do not believe mandatory vaccination is the correct approach, and actively argued against the proposal. Levels of vaccination in the NHS are high and rising and we should be using discussion and education to increase vaccination among NHS staff, not the hammer blow of mandating it.
I appeal to the Health Secretary to reconsider his decision and to delay the implementation. Throughout the pandemic, maternity staff have fought to keep services open and to provide the best care to women and families. It has been unrelenting and so it’s no surprise that staff absence is currently at its highest in the pandemic so far. Moving forward with mandatory vaccination could only see staffing levels fall further. The Government has opened a Pandora’s Box of unforeseen consequences – but there is an opportunity now to close it. We are urging Sajid Javid to do just that.”
It remains to be seen whether the Government will listen to further requests concerning the Regulations. Even with mounting pressure against the Regulations, employers and employees alike must continue to assume that the Regulations will take effect on 1 April 2022 and take appropriate action.
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