Vaccinations and the healthcare sector

From 11 November 2021 COVID-19 vaccinations will be mandatory for care home staff, volunteers and anyone else entering the care home for work purposes (subject to certain exemptions). Government guidance and Acas guidance on the details has now been published. Supplemental to the government guidance the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) published a letter on 15 September outlining that on a temporary basis, people working or volunteering in care homes with a medical reason as to why they are unable to have a COVID-19 vaccine, will be able to self-certify that they meet the medical exemption criteria.

DHSC has also launched a consultation "Making vaccination a condition of deployment in the health and wider social care sector". This proposes making COVID-19 and flu vaccinations a condition for frontline workers in health and social care settings. It would mean only those who are fully vaccinated, unless medically exempt, could be deployed to deliver health and care services. The consultation will consider the level of interaction in a clinical setting between staff, patients and visitors, the vulnerability of patients and high risk procedures in clinical settings and how they can be mitigated by the vaccination. The consultation closes at 11:45pm on 22 October 2021.

Government publishes COVID Winter Plan

The Government has published its COVID Winter Plan, setting out a Plan A and a Plan B, a reminder that contingency planning is the new normal. The 30 page document makes clear that the Government is committed to keeping society open and maintaining the current level of restrictions (Stage 4 of the Roadmap), but Plan B could kick in if there is a surge in COVID-19 cases threatening to compromise the NHS. Three measures could be deployed if we find ourselves in plan B territory, namely compulsory wearing of face masks in some settings, COVID passes required in certain settings (broadly nightclubs, sporting and music and other large crowd events), and a mandate to work from home.

Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) publish toolkit to support employers in addressing gender pay gap

The two organisations have published "Close your gender pay gap: a toolkit for business", which include measures organisations should be taking including anonymising CVs and application forms and actively promoting ways of working flexibly. The publication of practical guidance follows a warning from the ECHR that the gender pay gap disparity has widened during the pandemic and reminding employers not to de-prioritise this issue and that the extended deadline of pay gap reporting this year is 5 October 2021.

Right to Work Checks Extended

Performing a right to work check before employment starts is the only way for an employer to have a defence to illegal working penalties. In August the government announced that the end date for the temporary concession allowing adjusted checks has now been deferred to 5 April 2022 (from 31 August 2021). The following temporary changes were originally made on 30 March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic and now remain in place until 5 April 2022. By way of a reminder this means that:

  • where an employer needs to conduct a manual right to work check (eg. when an online check is not available), it can be carried out over a video call rather than in-person, which is a huge benefit for employers with remote or home workers
  • job applicants and existing workers can send scanned documents or a photo of documents for checks using email or a mobile app, rather than sending originals
  • employers should use the Home Office Employer Checking Service if a prospective or existing employee cannot provide any of the accepted documents.

If you would like further advice on this or other immigration issues, please contact either Charlie Pring or Vikki Wiberg in our Mobility Team.

Return to work webinar

If you would like to listen to the Return to work webinar we hosted in August, in which we considered hybrid working, working safely guidance and the question of vaccinations in the workplace, click here.

IR35 webinar

In response to an increasing number of queries in relation to IR35, we are hosting a webinar on 28 September (4-5pm BST), focusing in particular on external staffing compliance. Do register if you would like to reserve a place.