Scrap mandatory vaccine date, says UNISON

September 17, 2021

UNISON, the public service union, believes mandatory vaccination should be scrapped or thousands of people may lose out on the support they need.

Care workers must have had their first vaccination this week (Thursday 16th September) to beat the Government’s deadline of 11th November to be double-jabbed or be banned from entering care homes in England.

There are more than 112,000 vacancies in care and the Government itself predicts the loss of 40,000 to 70,000 workers because of its ‘no jab, no job’ care homes policy.

Recruitment specialist, Neil Eastwood, who is also the author of Saving Social Care and Founder and CEO of Care Friends, said, ‘Whichever side of the Mandatory Vaccination debate you are on, dismissing unvaccinated workers at a time when frontline care worker vacancies have already reached an unprecedented level, represents a serious risk to our sector’s ability to meet the demand for safe and adequate care. We know longstanding staff are most likely to be driven to leave when they feel they can no longer do a good job. This is exactly the situation many now find themselves in. As regular reports come in of managers and office staff covering care shifts themselves, we know we have a very short time before the system starts to collapse.’

Neil Eastwood added, ‘The recent DHSC guidance around self-certification provides some limited relief, particularly for overseas-vaccinated workers and pregnant women, although keeping on top of the latest guidance and, in some cases, having to reverse their previous position to employees adds more stress onto managers. It has long been my belief that a chronically under-funded social care sector has been propped up by the goodwill and sheer commitment of its workforce. I wonder how long we can continue to trade on that?'

UNISON warns that this could result in the closure of care homes and a reduction in the level of care available as employers struggle to meet safe staffing levels. The union said resources should have been focused on persuading hesitant workers of the benefits of taking the jab.

Christina McAnea, UNISON general secretary, said, ‘Everyone that can have the vaccine, should have the vaccine. But the Government has persisted with a heavy-handed approach despite warnings from care employers of the dire consequences. Instead of encouraging much-needed recruitment into care, the Government is actively driving experienced staff away. It’s not too late for ministers to admit the error of their ways and bring care back from the precipice.’

Supported living manager, Francis O’Ryan, said to UNISON, ‘We just can’t recruit people. No one is coming forward. We can’t even get agency workers to cover staff leave, as they’re struggling too. Agencies exist to provide emergency cover – without that safety net, it’s a real crisis. Some care workers are suffering from burnout and leaving, others contemplating careers in care can get paid more in supermarkets or fast-food restaurants, in jobs with far fewer responsibilities. The care sector simply can’t afford to lose any more staff.’

The National Care Forum (NCF) urged the Government to delay the deadline date. Vic Rayner, OBE, CEO of NCF, said, ‘Given that the Government is now consulting on widening the policy to cover all frontline health and care staff, they should delay the date of 11th November for the go–live of this policy in care homes and align the implementation dates across the whole health and care sector.’

Helen Badger, Partner at Browne Jacobson LLP said, ‘In terms of the self-certification process, it offers a temporary reprieve to some workers and to care home providers. The time-limited exemption for pregnant workers could provide some relief in a female-dominated workforce. The challenge though is how care home providers can police self-certification - and whether it is reasonable for them to take any self-certification at face value.'

‘It is not clear at the moment whether reliance on a self-certification will be enough for care home providers to avoid the penalties for allowing unvaccinated workers to continue working in their homes.’

CMM would like to hear from providers on how you are preparing ahead of the November deadline date. Get in touch with us at:

Visit CMM news for more details relating to the exemption guidance.

Temporary medical exemptions for COVID-19 vaccination of people working or deployed in care homes - GOV.UK ( 

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