9,000 Derbyshire care home jobs at risk over Covid-19 jab rules
More than 9,000 Derbyshire care home staff risk losing their jobs if they do not get their second Covid-19 jabs in the next month, NHS data shows.
From November 11, all care home workers and anyone entering a care home must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19, unless they are exempt, in a bid to protect vulnerable residents from the virus.
This includes staff, agency workers, volunteers, tradespeople and local authority employees but does not include relatives or friends of residents.
By the time that mandatory deadline arrives, care home staff will have been eligible for Covid vaccines for nearly a year, having been a top priority at the start of the roll-out last December.
A total of 4,173 staff affiliated with care homes around Derbyshire missed the September 16 deadline by which they needed to have received their first Covid-19 jab in order to be fully jabbed by November 11 – 14 per cent.
Meanwhile, a third of care home staff are still to have their second jab – 9,262 in total or 31.7 per cent, as of September 26, the most recent data.
Regarding staff potentially being fired or redeployed as a result of not getting fully vaccinated, the Government guidance says: “If you are unable to provide proof of vaccination or exemption, then your manager should explore all options available to you.
“This could include moving you to an alternative role for which vaccination is not required.
“You should speak to your manager about your options as soon as you can. You should not assume that it will be possible for you to be redeployed.
“You should note that the regulations may provide a fair reason for dismissal if you are not vaccinated or medically exempt.”
It says care homes should have plans in place for safe staffing throughout shortfalls due to illness or vacancies and that local authorities may be able to offer or direct homes to further assistance. If homes are unable to provide safe staffing levels they must notify the health watchdog the Care and Quality Commission (CQC).
The guidance also says unvaccinated staff “may begin working in another role and no longer work with you”.
It says: “As medical exemptions apply, not all staff members will have received a vaccine as some may have a health-related reason not to. If you are worried about this, you can speak to a staff member or the manager of your care home.”
It says staff could be offered paid or unpaid leave if they demonstrate that they intend to get fully vaccinated but did not meet the November 11 deadline.
The guidance says: “This cannot be a long-term solution, because the regulations do not have a time limit.”
It says: “Some care homes – having exhausted alternative options – may have to consider dismissing employees or terminating contracts of workers.
“This should only apply to those over 18 who are not vaccinated and have not obtained a medical exemption.
“Where this is the case, care homes must comply, at all times, with employment and equalities law and adhere to good employment practice.”
It says staff would not be eligible for redundancy payouts.
Trade union UNISON warned of staff shortages unless the mandatory jab policy was dropped.
UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Everyone that can have the vaccine, should have the vaccine. But the Government has persisted with a heavy-handed approach despite warnings from care employers of the dire consequences.
“This move is damaging a sector already on its knees and undermining trust in the vaccine. If roles can’t be filled, the level and volume of care offered will be reduced. Vaccine-hesitant staff must be offered reassurance and persuasion, not threats and ultimatums.
“Instead of encouraging much-needed recruitment into care, the Government is actively driving experienced staff away. It’s not too late for ministers to admit the error of their ways and bring care back from the precipice.”
The Government says: “Throughout the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, care home workers have done a phenomenal job to support and protect those most at risk from Covid-19.
“People across the sector have risen to this unprecedented challenge and gone above and beyond the call of duty to keep those they care for safe.
“We value the incredible work that people in care homes have done over the last 18 months to care for some of the people who are most at risk from Covid-19.
“We want to ensure that care homes are as safe as possible for the staff working in them and the people they care for. We believe that the best way to do this is to ensure that everyone who can take up the offer of vaccination, does.
Vaccination offers the best protection against the virus both for staff and care home residents.
In its guidance on the regulations, the Government said despite protection from testing and personal protective equipment (PPE), and the best efforts of committed staff, there have been outbreaks across the country, and nearly 14,000 care home residents have died of Covid-19 since the beginning of this year.
Meanwhile,more than 6,000 people in Derbyshire are expected to have contracted Long Covid, with that number expected to continue to rise.
It is the condition in which Covid symptoms such as brain fog, fatigue and depression, continue for 12 weeks or longer.
During a meeting of the health and wellbeing board at Derbyshire County Council, Dean Wallace, the authority’s public health director shed light on the current estimated spread of Long Covid through the county and city’s population.
He displayed slides which show there are said to be an estimated 6,000 cases of Long Covid in Derby and Derbyshire, with an estimated 77,000 cases across the Midlands as of mid-September.