Mandatory Covid vaccinations for care home workers being considered, says Matt Hancock 

  • Video report by ITV News UK Editor Paul Brand

Care home workers could be legally required to take the Covid vaccine under news plans the government is considering, Matt Hancock has said.

The health secretary confirmed on Tuesday that ministers were considering plans to make vaccines compulsory for care home workers in England. 

It comes after The Telegraph reported details of a paper submitted to the Sub-Committee for Covid-19 Operations, which formulates and advises the prime minister on Covid policy. 

The leaked paper revealed that Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock had agreed to the proposal to make jabs compulsory for care workers in England.

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In response to the reports, Mr Hancock said that a decision had not yet been taken, but confirmed the government is looking at the possibility of mandatory care worker vaccines.

Mr Hancock said: "Because people who are looking after elderly residents in care homes, who we know to be the most vulnerable to Covid, they have a duty of care not to pass on the disease and it is a reasonable question."

He also said "many" care homes had asked for this to happen.

The development comes as some care providers have moved to make Covid vaccines compulsory for staff, with concerns that low jab uptake among care staff could put vulnerable care home residents at risk.

Care home group Barchester has 200 care homes and 11,000 residents. Last month Barchester announced a "no jab, no job" policy for new hires Credit: PA

Mr Hancock said: "One of the problems is that not every elderly resident can be vaccinated, sometimes for medical reasons, and we want to give them as much protection as possible".

Around 76% of workers in elderly care homes have been vaccinated, and more than 90% of residents.

Last month care home group Barchester Healthcare - which runs more than 200 care homes in the UK - announced all new recruits must be vaccinated against Covid-19, unless they have medical reasons not to take the jab.

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Barchester told ITV News last month that it was their responsibility to make vaccination mandatory for all care staff.

Barchester’s CEO Dr Pete Calveley told Good Morning Britain last month that mandatory jabs for staff are important to keep residents, staff, and family of staff safe.

However, the prime minister’s official spokesman previously said it would be “discriminatory” to force people to be vaccinated.

There are concerns that making the vaccine mandatory for care workers could put people off joining the care sector, at a time when more care workers are needed. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock Credit: Jane Barlow/PA

Mike Padgham of the Independent Care Group - which represents care providers in North Yorkshire -  said although it is vital that care workers get vaccinated, it should be voluntary. 

Mr Padgham said: “The government has more work to do in terms of persuading everyone, not just care workers, about how important it is that the whole country has the vaccine so that we are all protected.

“There are already 120,000 vacancies in the care sector, we don’t need to put anything else in the way that might prevent people from joining our rewarding profession.”

The sub-committee paper warned that a “large” number of social care workers may quit if the change is made, according to The Telegraph.

The paper also warned there could be successful lawsuits on human rights grounds if care workers are legally required to get vaccinated.

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Unison the union told ITV News that bullying and coercion of care workers into getting the jab is the wrong approach.

Unison said that care employers need to support and educate their employees and that a policy of forced jabs would be bad for mass uptake. 

These views were echoed by GMB union, who said: “The least they could do through the vaccine rollout is try to gain the confidence of the workforce and work with us to remove the barriers to getting vaccinated.

“A voluntary line of action which ensures care workers get full sick pay for potential vaccination side-effects, support services to talk through workers’ concerns.”

Sir Keir Starmer said he sees “powerful arguments” for and against mandatory jabs for care workers. The Labour leader said that the most important thing currently is to encourage people to come forward for jabs.

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Employment lawyer Kate Hindmarch of Langleys Solicitors said: “no jab, no job could be a dangerous approach for employers to take”.

Ms Hindmarch said: “If an employer tries to force their employees to receive the jab or decides not to hire someone based on their refusal to get the jab, it could result in employment claims, for unfair dismissal and/or discrimination”.

A government spokesman said: “The review into Covid status certification is considering a range of issues.

“No final decisions have been made.”