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Is the Government’s ‘no jab, no job’ policy on its way out?

February 10, 2022
Employment Law

In December 2021, we reported on the planned extension of the Government’s ‘no jab, no job’ policy to NHS workers. But could we be about to see a reversal of this policy before it even comes into force?

Mandatory Vaccination

With effect from 11 November 2021, almost all employees working in English care homes were required to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19. Those who refused were forced to leave their jobs.  Implementing this policy was undoubtedly difficult and has resulted in many care homes reporting difficulties in recruiting replacement staff. So when Sajid Javid (the Health and Social Care Secretary) announced plans to extend the ‘no jab, no job’ policy to all frontline NHS workers, serious concerns arose regarding the risk of similar staff shortages arising within the NHS as well. 

Since announcing plans for mandatory vaccination within the NHS, we have seen considerable changes in the passage of the coronavirus. The Omicron variant is thankfully proving to be less dangerous to our health, despite its greater transmissibility. As a result, the Government have begun to relax other COVID measures such as mandatory mask-wearing and ‘work from home’ instructions. So if some of our concerns regarding the Omicron variant have abated, does this allow the government to rethink its policy on mandatory vaccination as well?

On 31 January 2022, Sajid Javid announced to parliament the government’s intention to conduct a further review; it would appear that serious consideration is being given to the reversal of the ‘no jab, no job’ policy both in the NHS and within social care. So is it possible that unjabbed NHS workers may yet be able to keep their jobs? Quite possibly. Sadly, this prospective change in policy comes too late for many workers in the wider care sector who had to leave their jobs last November.

Risk of claims?

Over recent days, we have heard one or two commentators speculating as to whether this development could increase the risk of successful unfair dismissal claims from former care home employees. In truth, the fairness of those dismissals would need to be judged against the laws and policies in place at the time. A subsequent policy change of this nature is unlikely to dramatically affect the legal rights and wrongs of an earlier dismissal. 

What is perhaps more interesting is the question as to how care home operators deal with former employees who ask to be re-employed, should the requirement for mandatory vaccination be reversed.

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