Unite has urged the government to carefully examine the pitfalls, as well as the advantages, of requiring care home staff to be compulsorily vaccinated for Covid-19.
Unite voiced its concerns following the announcement yesterday (Wednesday April 14) that the government is consulting on the requirement that all staff working in care homes in England with residents over 65 be vaccinated against Covid-19.
“This is an area of great sensitivity, with certain aspects causing concern for our members in this sector,” commented Unite national health and safety adviser Rob Miguel.
“Unite is promoting uptake of the vaccine when offered, however this has to be on the basis of consent, which has proved effective in the past. The UK does not generally mandate medical treatment and the union agrees with this position, as well as the recommendations from the World Health Organisation (WHO) that the decision whether or not to have the vaccine remain voluntary.
“The voluntary route has been hugely successful in ensuring that a high percentage of those eligible for vaccination in the UK have had the jab, with over 30 million having already received at least one dose. There is a danger that any move towards compulsory vaccinations may undermine public support for the programme.
“Whilst individuals have an absolute right to choose whether to have the vaccine, Unite is aware that employers could be deemed to act reasonably in certain situations, such as caring for the elderly, to push for employees to be vaccinated as a condition of employment. Should this proposal take fruition we have no doubt case law will develop in this area.
“However, there will be a wide range of reasons why an employee would not be able to have the vaccine such as disability/medical reasons, pregnancy, race or religion, therefore any blanket policy to make vaccination compulsory will be discriminatory in many cases.
“Affected workers must be given advice, information and support to ensure that any issues or concerns are resolved. For workers who are not able to have the vaccine, other options, such as frequent workplace testing, must be fully considered and utilised. We strongly believe that other options must be made available.
“Unite will fully support any of its members whose employment is threatened because they are unable or choose not to be vaccinated,” concluded Miguel.
By Barckley Sumner