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Staff crisis fear as vaccination deadline looms

Health and social care workers in England have until 3 February to get first jab - or risk losing their job

Published by Professional Social Work magazine, 12 January, 2022

Fears are mounting of staffing shortfalls in adult social care as a key deadline looms under plans to make it mandatory for health and social care workers in England to be double jabbed against Covid.

From 1 April anyone in a face-to-face role within a Care Quality Commission-regulated setting will need to have had both vaccinations.

The deadline for getting the first jab is 3 February with the second needed by 31 March. Frontline workers who have not had both vaccinations by then face redeployment or could even lose their job.

A government impact assessment predicts up to 73,000 could leave the NHS rather than be jabbed. Health bosses have warned as many as ten per cent of their staff are still not vaccinated. A similar proportion of unvaccinated could be replicated among England’s 1.54 million social care workers, of which 23,000 are social workers.

Colin Anderson, senior adviser with BASW’s advice and representation services, said: “We have had people contact us who for a variety of reasons have decided not to get vaccinated and I am confident we will get a lot more queries about it.

“They are asking us how legislation will be interpreted which is impossible for us to say. Until there are some test cases about this we are all in the same position.”

Anderson added: “As the legislation stands it is fairly clear that if you don’t have the double jabs - staff don’t need the booster, though that is under review - they will look to redeploy you.

“It is about ten per cent of health workers who haven’t been vaccinated. Given the size of these institutions we are talking about hundreds if not thousands of people.

“There is no way they can redeploy them all. It is a big problem.”

Employers have a duty to consider alternative ways for non-vaccinated staff to fulfil their duties. This could include virtual work or redeployment.

If this is not possible, employers can dismiss staff. Latest figures show the vacancy rate within adult social care in England is currently 6.8 per cent, rising to 8.1 per cent among social workers.

Compulsory vaccinations have not been introduced in Scotland and Northern Ireland, though Northern Ireland is consulting on making it mandatory for new social workers.

New legislation requiring health and care staff to be vaccinated as a condition of employment in England is an extension of similar rules introduced in care homes last November.

See BASW’s Covid guidance page here