England's National Health System (NHS), already short of some 100,000 workers, may start facing yet another crisis soon if authorities insist on applying to the fullest of the letter the mandatory immunization rule against COVID-19.
Around 80,000 workers (6%of the workforce) are believed to still be unjabbed and all frontline NHS staff must have had two vaccines by April 1, meaning the first dose must have been administered by Feb 3, which means that starting Feb. 4 measures might start being taken, including sackings.
A 24-page document called Vaccination as a Condition of Deployment (VCOD) states that: “From 4 February 2022, staff who remain unvaccinated (excluding those who are exempt) should be invited to a formal meeting chaired by an appropriate manager, in which they are notified that a potential outcome of the meeting may be dismissal. Meetings may take place in person or virtually.”
The document also points out that “It is important to note this is not a redundancy exercise. In the context of the regulations, there is no diminishment or cessation of work of a particular kind.
“Employers will not be concerned with finding ‘suitable alternative employment’ and there will be no redundancy entitlements, including payments, whether statutory or contractual, triggered by this process.
“The redeployment or dismissal of workers is determined by the introduction of the regulations and an individual’s decision to remain unvaccinated.
“Whilst organisations are encouraged to explore redeployment, the general principles which apply in a redundancy exercise are not applicable here, and it is important that managers are aware of this.”
Alternative options potentially available to an unvaccinated staff member – such as any possible adjustments to their current role, restrictions to duties or redeployment opportunities available – should also be explored, the document says.
Staff will be asked to present Covid passes to show they have had their vaccines, or for evidence to show that they are exempt.
With vacancies for nearly 100,000 NHS jobs already available, the Government foresees around 73,000 NHS staff in England could be fired because of the rules.
Deputy chief executive of NHS Providers Saffron Cordery expressed her concerns about the effectiveness of these policies: Trust leaders have consistently warned that the potential loss of staff who decide not to be vaccinated at a time when the service is under huge operational pressure and already grappling with nearly 100,000 vacancies is the main risk from this policy.
She added that Trust leaders will continue to do everything they can to support vaccine-hesitant staff while managing the significant risks presented by this policy in the coming weeks.
NHS England national medical director Prof Stephen Powis said vaccination is the best protection against the virus and, while it is currently a recommendation for health and care staff to be vaccinated, it will soon become a legal requirement.
Meanwhile, the Royal College of Nursing has called for a delay in law being implemented as dismissal notices will start being issued Feb 4, with the notice period ending March 31. Pat Cullen, RCN's General Secretary & Chief Executive, said: “Nothing matters more to a nurse than caring for their patients safely. Right now, our members are telling me they can’t always do that.
“We're calling on the government to recognize this risk and delay a move which, by its own calculations, looks set to backfire. To dismiss valued nursing staff during this crisis would be an act of self-sabotage,” Cullen said.