Sector concerned at ‘heavy-handed’ plans for compulsory vaccination of care workers

Unions and care providers have urged caution on leaked government plans to make Covid-19 vaccination of care workers compulsory.

The GMB, the care workers’ union, called the plans for compulsory vaccinations ‘heavy-handed’ and like to cause anxiety.

Kelly Andrews, GMB lead social care officer, said: “We have repeatedly told Ministers we expect the Government to act so that no workers suffer a financial detriment as a result of getting the vaccine – especially those priority workers in social care and elsewhere. Ministers have repeatedly refused to listen and talk now of imposing a blanket legal change forcing care workers to get vaccinated.

“This is more shoddy behaviour from a Government that has long lost the trust of the social care workforce.”

Andrews called on the government to regain care workers’ confidence.

“In the last twelve months since the first national lockdown, care workers have had to deal with the fallout from a litany of failures from the Government: the PPE scandal, the shifting of vulnerable hospital patients into care homes, the reams of conflicting guidance that government has put out.

“The least they could do through the vaccine rollout is try to gain the confidence of the workforce and work with us to remove the barriers to getting vaccinated. A voluntary line of action which ensures care workers get full sick pay for potential vaccination side effects, support services to talk through workers concerns.
“We need our care workers valued, recognised and rewarded – not strong-armed or bullied with threats of the law.”

The care provider organisation The Independent Care Group (ICG) says it would prefer people to have the vaccine voluntarily and it is worried such a rule might put people off from joining the sector.

ICG Chair Mike Padgham: “It is vital that care workers have the vaccine because of the vulnerable people they are looking after and I can understand the temptation to make it compulsory.

“But I have always been of the belief that we cannot force someone to have an injection and it should be voluntary. We have to remember people’s human rights as we live in a free society.

“I think rather than force it through legislation, the Government has more work to do in terms of persuading everyone, not just care workers, about how important it is that the whole country has the vaccine so that we are all protected.

“There are already 120,000 vacancies in the care sector, we don’t need to put anything else in the way that might prevent people from joining our rewarding profession.”

Tony Stein, chief executive of Healthcare Management Solutions, which operates around 80 homes across the UK says he was shocked the government’s plans but stressed the need for staff to be vaccinated.

“Whilst I’m somewhat shocked at the news it’s something that the whole sector has been discussing for some time. This is more than a practical issue – it goes to the heart of what we, as healthcare professionals feel is necessary to protect our residents, their loved ones, the NHS and those that can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons,” he said.

“Whilst compulsory vaccination is unusual, it is not unprecedented. NHS staff are already required to be vaccinated against Hepatitis B if they are to work on NHS premises. Receiving a jab is not a big ask of people and whilst we have already seen that the vast majority of our workforce have been very happy to receive the vaccination in the fight against this terrible disease, we welcome further moves to ensure the safety and wellbeing of those in our care.”

Date Published: March 23, 2021