Our monthly round up of the COVID-19 news you may have missed

Furlough scheme ends

The coronavirus job retention scheme (furlough scheme), which has cost £70 billion, ended on 30 September. At its peak almost 9 million jobs were being supported by the scheme. Given that there are currently over one million job vacancies in the UK it is hoped that the impact for many employees who are made redundant at the end of the furlough scheme will be less than it might have been.

Consultation on mandatory vaccination for workers in health and social care sector

A consultation has been published by the Department of Health and Social Care on whether mandatory vaccination for workers in care homes with older adult residents should be extended to apply to frontline health and care workers in other settings in England. The consultation also considers whether flu vaccinations should also be required. The consultation will close on 22 October 2021.

New guidance on vaccination for care home staff

Employees in care homes in England with older adult residents have until 11 November to get both Covid-19 vaccinations (unless they are exempt). ACAS have now published guidance to help affected employers and employees understand the vaccination requirements. The guidance sets out which workers must be vaccinated, how employers can check vaccination status and how to deal with employees who refuse vaccination.

Mandatory vaccination for care home staff challenged

While the UK Government is seeking to extend mandatory vaccination, two care home staff are seeking to challenge the regulations requiring vaccination. They have sought a judicial review of the legislation on a number of grounds including a failure by the Health Secretary to consider the efficacy of alternatives to vaccination, the disproportionate impact on women and those who identify as Black/Caribbean/Black British in contravention of the European Convention on Human Rights, and that the regulations are irrational and will lead to a shortage of both frontline and non-frontline care workers.

Morrisons cut sick pay for unvaccinated workers

Supermarket chain Morrisons have announced they will be cutting sick pay for unvaccinated staff who need to self-isolate in an attempt to manage the "biblical costs" of dealing with the pandemic. The move is intended to encourage workers to get vaccinated. The move does not come without some risk - there will certainly need to be some exemptions to a policy like this. Any organisation intending on introduce a similar policy should also consider the potential for indirect discrimination claims as it may disadvantage employees with certain protected characteristics. If that were the case it would be necessary to be able to show that the policy is in place to meet a legitimate aim and is a proportionate means of doing so. Practical difficulties may also be encountered in obtaining evidence of whether any particular employee has been vaccinated and the data protection implications of doing so.