On 6 January 2022, the Government introduced the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) (No.2) Regulations 2022 (‘Regulations’). These further regulations extend the scope of mandatory vaccination requirements for staff beyond registered care homes to health and wider social care settings in England.
The new regulations impose restrictions on any individual, partnership or organisation who is registered with the Care Quality Commission (‘CQC’) as being responsible for the delivery and service of CQC regulated activity in England (‘Registered Persons’). The Regulations apply in all CQC settings including hospitals, GP practices, dentist surgeries, within community services and where care is delivered in a person’s home.
The legislation provides that Registered Persons can only deploy or otherwise engage a person for the purposes of providing a CQC-regulated activity, in which they have direct, face-to-face contact with patients and service users, if that person provides evidence that they have been vaccinated with a completed course of a Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) approved COVID-19 vaccine.
These requirements under the Regulations are not limited to front-line workers and extend to all non-exempt individuals who may have face to face contact with patients including ancillary staff such as porters, cleaners, or receptionists.
The requirements will not apply to those who are under the age of 18, medically exempt, have participated in a clinical trial for a COVID-19 vaccine, are pregnant and have a temporary exemption which will be valid until they are 16 weeks post birth.
Furthermore, the Regulations allow for a grace period for compliance and come into force on 1 April 2022.
Employers carrying out CQC-regulated activities therefore need to establish the vaccination status of their staff, given that the deadline of 1 April 2022 for compliance is fast approaching.
To ensure compliance, any employees who are not exempt from the Regulations must receive their first vaccination by the 3 February 2022. This is to comply with current vaccination guidance which states that eight weeks are required between a patient’s first and second vaccinations. Employers should be proactive in recording their workforce’s progress towards this deadline as well as ensuring participating employees receive their second vaccination before 1 April 2022.
Employers should be engaging with their workforce now to establish vaccination status and to facilitate where possible vaccination uptake in cases of vaccine hesitancy. Employers need to ensure that their data protection policies are up to date to reflect collection of vaccination status data as such information is special category data.
Employers should also prepare to deal with the impact the Regulations is likely to have on their staffing levels and develop of process to deal with employees who remain unvaccinated, as it is likely their employment will have to be terminated unless alternative roles can be found for them that do not require face to face contact.
If you have any queries regarding the Regulations, dealing with employees personal data or preparing to deal with staff who remain unvaccinated, please contact our employment team on 01228 552600 or 01524 548494.
This alert does not provide a full statement of the law and readers are advised to take legal advice before taking any action based on the information contained herein.