On 11 November 2021, the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2021 came into force, which require everyone aged 18 or over, working in a care home to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 unless they are medically exempt.
Since 15 September 2021, employees who believe they are medically exempt have been able to complete a temporary self-certification medical exemption form. However, this temporary self-certification expires on 24 December 2021 and from this date, unvaccinated employees must be able to evidence that they have been granted medical exemption status under the government scheme.
Employees can apply for medical exemption by calling 119 and requesting an application form. They must then submit this completed application form to their GP or other clinician for assessment. It’s anticipated that a decision should be made within two to three weeks of submission.
If their application is rejected, they will not be able to enter the care home premises to work after 24 December, unless they are double vaccinated.
If an unvaccinated employee is unsuccessful in their application for medical exemption or if they fail to apply under the exemption scheme (or unreasonably delay in doing so), then the care home employer will need to follow a proper process and, if appropriate, serve them notice to terminate their employment. They should also bear in mind that the employee will not be allowed to perform any work in the care home after 24 December.
Given the impending deadline, it’s essential that care home employers are vigilant throughout December in reviewing with all their self-certified exemption employees what progress has been made with their application under the exemption scheme and setting them reasonable deadlines to complete the next stage of the process. They should hold review meetings with all such employees to make sure they’ve submitted their application, to understand where they are up to with the process; and to find out the decision as soon as it’s available.
Our experts have put together this flowchart to help set out the review process employers should follow and, in particular, when they’re strongly advised to take advice. However, these are very tricky situations to navigate so please call our experts if you need any further guidance.
Employees who’ve been successful in their application for medical exemption will be able to produce an NHS COVID Pass in one of the recognised ways. However, this does not differentiate between those who are medically exempt and those who are fully vaccinated. In view of government advice that care businesses should carry out a risk assessment for all unvaccinated employees to consider whether any extra measures are necessary to control the risk of infection, employers are advised to also ask for a copy of the letter confirming medical exemption status has been approved.
We appreciate how tough its been for care business owners to get everything ready in time for the 24 Decemeber deadline. If you’ve got any questions or need the guidance of our experts as the deadline looms, you can call us 24/7 on 0345 844 4848.