A government leaked paper suggests that Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock have agreed to a proposal which will make it mandatory by law for care workers to receive a Covid-19 vaccination, according to the Daily Telegraph.
Why is the Law Changing?
The paper is understood to read:
“The Prime Minister and the Secretary of State have discussed on several occasions the progress that is being made to vaccinate social care workers against Covid-19 and have agreed – in order to reach a position of much greater safety for care recipients – to put in place legislation to require vaccinations among the workforce.”
The request to change the law has been proposed in order to protect vulnerable residents at care homes. If the law is changed, it is likely that 1.5 million people who work in England’s adult social care sector will be required by law to have a Covid-19 vaccination.
The National Care Association chairperson, Nadra Ahmed, confirmed in December 2020, that 40% of carers had chosen not to get the vaccine.
The only comparable situation we have in UK law is from the 1800s, when newborns had to be given the smallpox vaccines.
The leaked paper is a major U-turn to the government’s previous stance where they had reassured the public that the Covid-19 vaccine would not be made mandatory.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) set a benchmark of 80% vaccination among staff and 90% among residents for a care home to be deemed ‘safe’. At present, only a quarter of care homes in London have met this benchmark and only half of care homes in other parts of England have reached ‘safe’ levels of vaccination.
The care sector employs a number of young workers, the low level of vaccinations may be due to the fact that they have not yet been offered a vaccine, however, this is not the sole reason. Many are worried and have concerns over having the vaccine whilst trying to get pregnant or whilst being pregnant. In addition to this, there is a lot of misinformation being spread about the vaccine on the internet and it is believed that this misinformation is another reason why staff are refusing to have the vaccine.
The justification in proposing this amendment to the law is that it aims to protect the most vulnerable in our society from a deadly virus.
A key line in the paper is understood to read:
“The most significant risk of a policy to require vaccination among the workforce is the potential impact on workforce numbers should social care workers choose to leave their roles in large numbers rather than be vaccinated.”
Are These Changes Risky?
The government are aware that if vaccinations become mandatory, social care workers may quit. Ultimately, leaving a care home understaffed, with not enough remaining staff to care for residents.
There is also a high risk that the government will face legal action, as this is a highly controversial piece of law. It is likely that a claim will be brought against the government for breach of the right to autonomy and bodily integrity of Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights, as a result of the government making it mandatory for care workers to receive the Covid-19 vaccine.
It is likely that this paper will receive a lot of backlash and if a claim is brought against the government, it is likely to be successful on the grounds of Human Rights.
Sir Keir Starmer, Labour leader said he sees “powerful arguments” for and against mandatory vaccinations for care workers. However, he stated that the most important thing currently is to encourage people to come forward for vaccinations instead of forcing people to have the vaccine.
It will be interesting to see how this unfolds, however, it is clear that there will be a lot of opposition against this.
Is Your Employer Enforcing Vaccination?
If your employer is enforcing vaccination and you do not feel comfortable having the injection, please contact our friendly and experienced employee law solicitors who can discuss your case and outline your legal options.