The Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2021 have been approved by both Houses of Parliament and were made on 22 July.
They will come into force after 16 weeks (on 11 November), the "grace period" to enable most care home workers to have the opportunity to receive both vaccine doses.
The new law will apply to care homes in England which are registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC). It does not apply to other CQC services or services not regulated by CQC, such as domiciliary services and supported housing. The requirement for mandatory vaccination will extend to any professionals visiting the care home, such as healthcare workers, tradespeople, hairdressers and beauticians, and CQC inspectors.
Not everyone entering a care home has to be vaccinated. The Regulations provide that the requirement does not apply to residents of the care home, friends and family of residents who are visiting, those entering the home to assist with an emergency or to carry out urgent maintenance work, or those under the age of 18.
The operation and effect of the Regulations will be reviewed by the Secretary of State every 12 months after they come into force. For more detail on the Regulations and their implications for care homes please refer to our bulletin, 'Mandatory vaccination: opening Pandora's box'.
Meanwhile, Public Health England has published new guidance for employers on Covid-19 vaccination. It includes information and resources to help them support their staff and promote the Covid-19 vaccination programme. This will be of use to both those care homes who will be legally obliged to institute mandatory vaccination, as well as employers more generally.
An Employers' Communication Toolkit has been produced which the guidance recommends that employers use and share with their workers. It includes a Q&A document, editorial content covering essential vaccination information, scripts to inform internal conversations, links to videos and webinars, posters, screensavers, intranet banners and email signatures.
The guidance recommends that advice or blog posts about the importance of vaccination could be posted on the employer's intranet, or in emails or newsletter communications. It suggests that employers could consider using champions to promote vaccination and encourage senior staff to share their vaccination experiences. It also states that employers should consider allowing workers to take time off to be vaccinated, and that sick leave policies and procedures should be reviewed to ensure that they do not dis-incentivise workers from getting vaccinated.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.