November 11th, 2021 will be cemented into Social Care history as the day on which all workers in registered care homes were required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. For this, there will generally be no exceptions, although some people will be eligible to be officially classified as exempt, the process for demonstrating this is not yet clear. In effect, care home providers will be required to redeploy or dismiss any staff that are not double vaccinated by November 11th. This will have a huge impact on a sector already fighting against insufficient numbers of staff.
However, the clock for this action is well and truly ticking – for those who did not have the first vaccine by 16th September, given the time gap between each jab, it is virtually impossible for them to be fully vaccinated by 11th November. This also means that all care homes need to assess the shortfall in staffing numbers that is likely to come up in November, or of course sooner, if people simply start to leave.
Ideally, the immediate plan is to assess the risk to each service individually and develop an action plan for each possible score level.
Assessing the risk
By now, providers should have spoken to all of their care home staff (all that is, not just the care staff) and identified which ones, for whatever reasons, will not have had both vaccinations by the 11th of November. Providers also need to establish the intention of each of those staff. Will they commit to having the vaccine as soon as possible? Are they medically exempt? Or, will they not be having it at all? There may be some who will commit to having the vaccine but can’t have their second until after the deadline. There are many ways to work around this, you could look at temporarily redeploying these people or putting them on leave until they’re able to return to work. There are probably plenty of opportunities to work around this issue, so take the time to consider your options. You don’t want to lose good staff of course.
With this information you can then assess the risk to your service. What is the full-time equivalent (FTE) of care staff (as that is where the biggest issue will be) that are likely not to be vaccinated fully by 11th November? Add this to the FTE of normal vacancies you are carrying. This figure, expressed as a percentage of your workforce, can be RAG-rated to show if your risks are higher than they might normally be. It is very difficult in these times to fully mitigate these risks, but heightened action may be required.
Ideally, each service should be reassessed weekly to see if the position has changed regarding staff that may be wavering in their commitment to a vaccine, either positively or negatively.
This work cannot be delayed, however, and providers need to act now to assess the level of impact this ruling will have. Remember that non-vaccinated staff or volunteers cannot undertake ANY work in a care home from the 11th of November – they would need to be redeployed to another type of service in another building to remain employed with you.
See here for further guidance from GOV.UK and download a copy of our staff risk assessment (PDF).