Quick fire - August 2021


26 August 2021

Guidance on compulsory vaccination and changes to self-isolation rules are covered in this month's Quick fire.

Guidance on compulsory vaccination

The Department for Health and Social Care has now published operational guidance on the vaccination of those working in care homes, as required under the new Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2021.

The operational guidance supports the implementation of the Regulations, which come into force on 11 November 2021 and require all care home workers and others who enter a care home to be fully vaccinated by that date, unless they are exempt. It is aimed at care home operators, staff, residents and their families and visiting professionals.

The guidance includes the following key points:

  • guidance on the applicable exemptions (note however, that detailed guidance on the medical exemptions is still in the process of being prepared)
  • details of the records that employers must keep on staff vaccinations
  • a recommendation that care homes consider implementing a 
  • vaccination policy
  • advice for employers on engaging with their workforce prior to the Regulations taking effect
  • guidance on the procedure for employers to follow if staff are unable or unwilling to provide evidence of their vaccination status, making sure that all options are considered (such as redeployment) before opting to dismiss
  • guidance on a potential fair dismissal, either on grounds that employment is in contravention of a statutory restriction or for some other substantial reason. It also confirms that there will be no breach of the Equality Act 2010 if a care home takes action in accordance with the provisions of the Regulations.

Annex A of the guidance covers ‘good employment practice’, including a link to the Skills for Care dedicated webpage on vaccinations, which brings together a range of support, information and resources to support social care employers.

Changes to self-isolation rules from 16 August 2021

NHS Test and Trace workplace guidance has been updated to reflect the changes in the rules on self-isolation that took effect on 16 August 2021.

The revised guidance no longer includes the self-isolation exemption rules for critical workers, which were introduced to deal with acute staff shortages resulting from those workers having to isolate after contact with a positive case of COVID-19.

Individuals who are informed that they are a contact of someone who has tested positive will no longer need to self-isolate provided they are:

  • fully vaccinated
  • below the age of 18 years and six months
  • taking part in an approved COVID-19 vaccine trial
  • unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons.

The guidance confirms that employers are not expected to check whether an individual is exempt from self-isolation, and workers who are exempt do not need to inform their employer if they have been advised that they are a contact of a positive case.

However, individuals who are informed that they are a contact of a positive case are still advised to get tested and to take precautions for 10 days, such as limiting contact with those outside of their household and anyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable. Those with any symptoms should still isolate and get tested, regardless of their vaccination status.

Any worker who is required to isolate and is due to work somewhere other than their place of self-isolation have a legal duty to inform their employer as soon as possible, or otherwise they can be fined £50. Employers are “strongly encouraged” to support them to self-isolate.

This article is from the August 2021 issue of Employment and Immigration Law Update, our monthly newsletter for HR professionals. To download the latest issue, please visit the newsletter section of our website. For further information please contact Liz Stevens or another member of Birketts' Employment Law Team.

The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at August 2021.

Author

Liz Stevens

Professional Support Lawyer

+44 (0)1603 756474

+44 (0)7580 355031

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