On Wednesday 15 September, the eve of the last day that care home workers must have their first COVID jab in order to comply with the 11 November compulsory vaccination deadline, and with no sign of the promised medical exemption certification scheme in sight, the government announced a temporary scheme, which will potentially make the situation even more complex for care service owners.
Our HR & Employment Law experts summarise the temporary scheme, and its potential impact on care services, below.
On a temporary basis, from Wednesday 15 September, people working or volunteering in care homes “who have a medical reason why they are unable to have a COVID-19 vaccine“ will be able to self-certify that they meet the medical exemption criteria, using the form attached in a letter announcing the scheme, which has been issued to all care home providers and managers. The announcement says, “this temporary self-certification process has been introduced for a short period prior to the launch of the new NHS COVID Pass system which will go live imminently”.
Care home workers “who are exempt” should sign the self-certification form and give this to their employer as proof of their “temporary exemption status”. Once the NHS COVID Pass system is launched, employees will have to apply for a formal medical exemption through that process.
The temporary self-certification will expire 12 weeks after the NHS COVID Pass system is launched.
The announcement is unclear on this critically important point. It says,
“While this list is not exhaustive, examples of medical exemptions from COVID-19 vaccination could include individuals:
The temporary scheme also provides for time-limited exemptions for those with short-term medical conditions (the examples given in the letter are people receiving hospital care or receiving medication that may interact with the vaccination).
The time-limited exemption is available to pregnant workers should they choose to take it. This will be welcomed by employers who were struggling with issues involving employees who are happy to be vaccinated but wish to delay this until after their pregnancy.
The government has been considering how to deal with those who’ve received vaccinations abroad. The announcement states that in these cases those individuals can also self-certify as medically exempt, as it would not be clinically appropriate for them to be vaccinated again in the UK if they have already received a “partial or full course” of vaccination overseas.
The temporary scheme of self-certification introduces scope for many employees to self-declare exemption in circumstances where they will not qualify under the permanent exemption process, meaning that their self-declared exemption period will take them beyond the 11 November deadline, but may still leave them unable to work after this point if they are not fully vaccinated and are refused exemption certification under the full scheme. Employers will have to carefully manage the dismissal process in such circumstances.
Citation has updated our vaccination policy template in line with the new scheme and this can be found on Atlas, here.
And remember, if you need help understand how this new update may affect your care service, you can call our 24/7 advice line on 0345 844 4848.