Guidance for the implementation of Vaccination as a Condition of Deployment (VCOD), published on Friday by NHS England, said that staff terminated due to the legislation change will not qualify for any “redundancy entitlements, including payments, whether statutory or contractual.”
Under the government’s new law, which was backed by parliament, all adult workers who face patients or service users in health care settings will have to be fully vaccinated by April 1, or face redeployment or dismissal. This includes doctors, nurses, volunteers, as well as ancillary staff such as porters, cleaners, or receptionists. Workers who are medically exempt from vaccination or involved in a medical trial are exempt from the rule.
To keep their current jobs, frontline health care staff will have to get their first doses of the vaccine against the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus by Feb. 3 to allow a recommended eight-week gap between the two doses.
The VCOD told health care employers they should start inviting unvaccinated staff to meetings from Feb. 4 and inform them that a potential outcome may be dismissal, but noted the process is not a redundancy.
“It is important to note this is not a redundancy exercise. In the context of the regulations, there is no diminishment or cessation of work of a particular kind,” the 24-page document (pdf) says.
“Employers will not be concerned with finding ‘suitable alternative employment’ and there will be no redundancy entitlements, including payments, whether statutory or contractual, triggered by this process.”
The document added the redeployment or dismissal of workers is “determined by the introduction of the regulations and an individual’s decision to remain unvaccinated.”
Employers were told to engage and work in collaboration with their trade union or staff side representatives, as to the formal measures being taken “in respect of redeployment processes and potential dismissals of staff due to VCOD.”
Alternative options potentially available to an unvaccinated staff member—such as any possible adjustments to their current role, restrictions to duties, or redeployment opportunities available—should also be explored, the document says.
Apart from permanent exemptions, England’s COVID-19 medical exemptions are also given on a temporary basis to people who have a short-term medical condition or test positive for COVID-19, as well as pregnant women.
Although pregnant women are urged to get vaccinated by the government’s information campaigns, they are exempt from vaccination-based rules until 16 weeks after giving birth.
Health care employers are told that while unvaccinated pregnant staff are not required to be redeployed by law when they’re exempt, they may be temporarily redeployed based on mutual agreement following the outcome of applicable risk assessments or on the advice of occupational health.
The NHS document comes after leading midwives called for an “immediate delay” to plans for mandatory COVID-19 jabs for frontline health workers.
The Royal College of Midwives said that the policy could have a significant impact on maternity services, arguing this week that current staff absences are at their highest level since the pandemic began.
The college said there are “chronic understaffing” issues in the sector with an estimated shortfall of around 2,000 midwives, adding that it feared the policy will see staff levels fall further still.
NHS national medical director Professor Stephen Powis said: “The NHS has always been clear that the life-saving COVID vaccination is the best protection against the virus, and while it is currently a recommendation for health and care staff to be vaccinated, it will soon become a legal requirement.
“The overwhelming majority of staff in NHS organisations, nine in ten, have already had their second jab, and NHS employers will continue to support and encourage staff who have not yet been vaccinated to take up the offer of the 1st and 2nd doses ahead of the April 1, when regulations come into effect.”
PA news agency quoted a Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) as saying health and social care workers are “responsible for looking after some of the most vulnerable people in society, many of whom are more likely to suffer serious health consequences if exposed to the virus.”
The spokesperson added: “This is about patient safety, and ensuring people in hospital or care have as much protection as possible. Vaccinations remain our best defence against COVID-19.”
According to data from NHS England, by Jan. 9, around 94 percent of NHS Trust health care workers in the NHS Electronic Staff Record had received at least one dose of a CCP virus vaccine, 91 percent had been double-jabbed, and 76 percent were triple-jabbed.
The data set suggested that 81,626 staff were unvaccinated as of Jan. 9. An estimated 15 percent of all staff are not on the frontline.
Government ministers previously said the definition of “fully vaccinated” will be changed to include a third dose when all adults have had a reasonable chance to get a booster shot. It’s unclear whether health care workplaces will be affected if and when the rule changes.
The DHSC didn’t respond to The Epoch Times’ request for comment.
England is currently the only nation in the UK that has mandated CCP virus vaccines for health and social care workers following a public consultation on mandating CCP virus and flu vaccines. A similar consultation has been launched in Northern Ireland.
PA contributed to this report.