Compulsory vaccination for care home staff

Published: 18th October 2021
Area: Corporate & Commercial

Share This

The Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2021 will come into force on 11 November 2021 and will make COVID vaccination compulsory for care home staff. Here we examine some of the key questions you may have.

What do the regulations say and why have they been introduced?

Given the higher risk COVID poses to residents of care homes, who are generally elderly or vulnerable (or both), when compared to the general population, the government decided to make the COVID vaccine mandatory for anyone working in a care home. It’s not a decision without controversy and it has been acknowledged that requiring anyone to undergo a vaccine as a condition of keeping their job is a highly unusual step. However, the government’s line on this – which will sound familiar – is that the pandemic is an exceptional situation and that unusual steps are needed to tackle the crisis.

What if an individual can’t have the jab for a medical reason?

The regulations anticipate this scenario and make it clear that where someone can’t have the jab for a medical reason, they will still be allowed to attend work, provided they can provide evidence of their medical exemption or, in the short term, self-certify their exemption. The actual numbers falling within this exemption will be low.

Do the regulations just apply to frontline care workers?

No, the rules apply to anyone working inside a care home.  There are some specific exemptions (see below) but otherwise, the rules apply to all staff regardless of the role they carry out and regardless of whether they actually have any direct contact with residents during their day-to-day work.

What about families visiting relatives in care homes?

The regulations contain a fairly lengthy list of exemptions that apply, the most significant one being that people visiting residents do not have to be fully vaccinated.  This includes friends as well as family members. This gives rise to a slightly bizarre scenario whereby an individual turning up to work at a care home without being fully vaccinated would have to be turned away, but the same person attending in their capacity as a friend or relative would be allowed in!

Whilst there are various other exemptions that could apply, in practice these will only apply in a limited number of scenarios.

What are the timescales on this?

The deadline for care home workers to be fully vaccinated is 11 November. Anyone not fully vaccinated by that date is strictly forbidden from entering the care home unless one of the exemptions applies. This means that workers will need to have received their first jab by 16 September in order to get the second jab in time for the deadline.

Anyone who is willing to get the jab but misses the deadline could ask their employer to try and bridge the gap (e.g. with holiday and/or unpaid leave) but this is only likely to be a feasible option where the delay is relatively short.

What if somebody won’t have the jab?

Unless the employer can relocate them to a building without any residents (e.g. a separate head office) the likelihood is that they will be dismissed. Such dismissals are likely to be fair provided a proper consultation process has been followed by the employer.

So is this good news or bad news for care home operators?

It depends on your viewpoint. On the plus side, it provides certainty for operators who were otherwise stuck in a bit of a quandary when dealing with employees refusing to get the COVID vaccine. However, it is likely to lead to operators having to dismiss employees that they would otherwise want to keep, and many operators are already struggling with severe staffing shortages.

Watch our importance of employee well-being in the workplace and practical issues for employers to consider webinar

In this joint webinar with Brewin Dolphin, we will look at factors to consider in order to promote good health and wellbeing in the workplace which can boost employee engagement and organisational performance.

Get In Contact

Matt’s expertise cover all areas of Employment law. He has considerable experience of advising clients on complex employment litigation, senior hires and exits, large-scale redundancy exercises and complicated TUPE issues.



From guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and support with largescale redundancies, to working from home and policies and other workplace issues, our team of experts are on hand to work with your HR teams to help with any issue, large or small.

Our Thoughts

All the latest thoughts and insights from our team

TUI v Griffiths Supreme Court Ruling: A Wake-Up Call for Defendants on Expert Evidence

7 Dec

Litigation & Dispute Resolution

TUI v Griffiths Supreme Court Ruling: A Wake-Up Call for Defendants on Expert Evidence

Read article Right Arrow

Christmas Getaway: Creating New Traditions for Divorced Families

5 Dec


Christmas Getaway: Creating New Traditions for Divorced Families

Read article Right Arrow

SHMA® On Demand

All the latest on-demand content

Employment Breakfast: Disciplinary Processes – Getting them right

13 Dec

Nick Jones, Partner - Employment | Cecily Donoghue, Senior Associate - Employment

Employment Breakfast: Disciplinary Processes – Getting them right

Employment Law experts Nick Jones and Cecily Donoghue will guide attendees through an overview […]

Register Right Arrow

Biodiversity Net Gains – new mandatory requirements for developers

30 Nov

Anna Cartledge, Partner | Louise Ingram, Partner

Biodiversity Net Gains – new mandatory requirements for developers

New mandatory requirements (introduced by the Environment Act 2021) will drive the delivery and […]

Watch Right Arrow