Mandatory Covid Vaccinations: What’s happening now?
In July 2021, the government announced its plans to make Covid vaccination a mandatory requirement for all care home workers and volunteers in England. At the time, individuals were allowed a 16-week grace period, until 11 November 2021, to get the vaccine or face redeployment or dismissal. They then later announced in mid-September that workers could self-certify a temporary exemption from getting the vaccine. However, this must be submitted by 11 November 2021 and is only in place for 12 weeks from the launch date of the new NHS Covid Pass System.
This System went live on 1 October 2021 meaning the 12-week period is now running. Workers and volunteers have until 24 December 2021 to evidence a permanent medical exemption. Those who cannot provide evidence of vaccination or permanent exemption (including short-term exemptions) via the NHS Covid Pass, after having first self-certified their exemption by 11 November, will not be able to enter a care home to continue in their role from 25 December 2021 onwards.
Short-term exemptions will be available for people with short-term medical conditions. For example, people who are receiving hospital care, waiting for an operation or on medication which could interact with the vaccine.
Pregnant women will also be given a short-term exemption but can use their MATB1 certificate as evidence of this, they don’t need to apply for an NHS Covid Pass. It will expire 16-weeks post-partum, to give them time to become fully vaccinated after the birth. Employees on maternity leave may choose to wait longer to get the vaccine but employers can expect them to have it before returning to work. They will not be able to enter the care home after the 16-week period has passed, including to attend a keeping in touch (KIT) day.
To apply for a permanent medical exemption, employees should phone the NHS Covid Pass service on 119 and ask for an application form. They will need to give their name, date of birth, NHS number (if known) and the name of their GP/clinician. If they are eligible, they will receive an application form by post. This form should be completed by the employee and submitted to their GP or relevant clinician for review. Employees will automatically be sent the results of their application by post 2-3 weeks after applying. The decision is final and cannot be appealed. Whilst employers will not be directly involved in the application process, they might want to remind their teams to use this.
Workers who are given a permanent medical exemption will receive a confirmation letter which they should keep for their records. It highlights that the letter can be used if you work or volunteer in a care home to explain that you’re medically unable to get vaccinated, since the NHS Covid pass will not show this.
Businesses should also remain up to date with the consultation into making Covid and flu vaccines a mandatory requirement for frontline workers in wider health and social care settings, including NHS organisations. The consultation closed on 22nd October 2021 with an outcome expected as soon as reasonably possible thereafter.