- 22 March 2022
- 5 min read
Should Healthcare Workers Be Compensated And Rehired After Vaccine Mandate U-Turn?Subscribe To Advice
Following the announcement from the health secretary that the COVID vaccination will not be a condition of employment from 15 March 2022, the government has stated it is up to employers to rehire members of staff who lost their jobs as result of this policy.
The decision to reverse this policy followed a consultation in which more than 90% of the over 90,000 participants said they wished to see mandatory vaccination requirements overturned.
Health and social care secretary Sajid Javid told the House of Commons: “While vaccination remains our very best line of defence against Covid-19, I believe that it is no longer proportionate to require vaccination as a condition of deployment through statute."
Mr Javid stated that “it was the right policy at the time” and that “the government makes no apology for it". What this reversal would mean for those who had already been left or been dismissed because of vaccine requirements was something the health secretary failed to address.
Do you agree with the health secretary that the policy was ‘proportionate’ at the time, given the high vaccination rates in the population generally and pre-existing shortages of staff within the health and social care workforce?
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said it was a decision for employers whether to re-employ staff who had been dismissed or resigned due to the regulations.
However, some social care providers believe that staff will be unlikely to return to their old jobs. Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, stressed the decision to remove the mandate was “too late” for the thousands of care staff who had already left services because they did not want to be vaccinated.
There are fears Nurses and other healthcare staff working in the NHS may have also chosen to leave before the April 1st deadline for them to get both vaccinations.
Others may have felt pressured into getting vaccinated when they did not want to (raising questions around informed consent) for fear of losing their jobs.
Should health and social care workers be entitled to some kind of compensation if they do decide to return to their previous roles, and could this be an inducement for reluctant returnees?
In November 2021, a House of Lords committee cautioned that the government’s case for the mandatory vaccination of NHS staff was insufficiently robust and that it failed to deal with how the health service would mitigate the subsequent loss of staff.
This concern was amplified by the reported loss of 40,000 staff as a result of compulsory vaccinations in adult social care being introduced the same month.
The chair of the Independent Care Group, Mike Padgham explained: ‘We warned many good, kind and caring professional staff would be lost to the policy and that proved to be the case. Most of those we will never get back.’
Laura Kearsley, partner and solicitor specialising in employment law at Nelsons, said: “When the compulsory vaccine announcement was made last year, there was a real worry in the care sector as to the impact it might have on recruitment and staff retention."
“There’s no arguing that the requirement to be double vaccinated caused a number of challenges for employers, as many workers refused the jab and chose to leave their roles or left bosses with no choice but to terminate their employment” she added.
Do you think the government considered all the consequences of the inevitable staff losses that the policy would and indeed did bring about?
Unison’s general secretary Christina McAnea said of the U-turn: “This was the right thing to do. But it shouldn’t have taken the government so long to realise the huge mistake it was making…Ministers were repeatedly warned the jab rules would cause staffing chaos for the NHS and the care sector but chose not to listen. Unfortunately, much of the damage has already been done.”
Chief executive and general secretary from the Royal College of Nursing, Pat Cullen, echoed this sentiment: “Holding the threat of losing their jobs over the heads of the small minority of staff who had not been vaccinated was the wrong approach and this decision will be welcomed by those whose jobs were at risk." “It does, however, come too late for those who have already lost their jobs” she added.
If it is indeed too late for a lot of the workers who left their jobs, what measures to you think can be taken to attract new staff members into the health and social care sector, and will the extra money from the health and social care levy, beginning in April, have any noticeable effect?
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