A “draconian” no jab, no job policy being introduced in the care home sector will trigger an "exodus" of workers and closures, unions have warned.
Care workers have to get their first Covid vaccine by September 16 and be double jabbed by November 11 or be banned from entering care homes in England.
Unison says the policy was already contributing to a “severe staffing crisis” in the sector, adding that many care agencies can no longer provide emergency cover as it urged the government to scrap the jab deadline.
The union urged the government to concentrate on persuading hesitant workers of the benefits of having the jab rather than resorting to threats and ultimatums.
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.
“Instead of encouraging much-needed recruitment into care, the government is actively driving experienced staff away.”
On Wednesday, one day before the deadline, ITV News UK Editor Paul Brand reported that the Department of Health issued guidance that carers can self-certify that they have a medical exemption which gets them out of it.
Exemptions include: terminal illness, a learning difficulty, autism or allergy to vaccine.
The exemptions will be temporary, but essentially a carer can now self-declare that they shouldn’t have to have the jab, Paul Brand said.
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The GMB estimated that up to 70,000 care home workers in England may not be fully vaccinated by the November 11 deadline.
The union warned that the policy could be last straw for workers after years of “inadequate” pay and conditions.
GMB national officer Rachel Harrison said: “Forcing vaccination of our key workers is not the way to address vaccine hesitancy.
“Care is already facing a staffing black hole of 170,000 by the end of the year.
“Even in a best-case scenario we will lose tens of thousands of key workers if the jab is forced on them.
“How will care bosses deal with these huge staffing vacancies.
“How can they reassure people residents will receive safe care?”
David Kelly of workplace management app Deputy, commented: “Many workers who have demonstrated their commitment to caring throughout the pandemic feel demoralised and undervalued.
“A number have explained they are not ‘anti vaxxers’ but have personal reasons for not wanting the vaccine, ranging from religious and cultural reasons, to health concerns.”