Will mandatory vaccinations lead to legal disputes?

The issue of mandatory Covid vaccinations has hit the headlines, with the health secretary announcing that this would now be the case for care home workers in England.

This is in order to protect residents in these homes from death and serious illness, according to the Department of Health and Social Care.

Workers in care homes registered to the Care Quality Commission are now expected to be fully vaccinated from October – unless they have a medical exemption. The same rules are going to apply to individuals entering homes to undertake other work, such as tradespeople, healthcare workers and beauticians – also unless they have a medical exemption.

Matt Hancock has also confirmed that his department will launch a consultation into whether the same approach will be taken for NHS staff.

But will this decision lead to a rise in legal action?

Are legal challenges likely?

Although many care workers will likely decide that they will leave the profession, industry experts are now expecting legal cases to crop up.

The Independent Care Group, which represents care providers in Yorkshire, has said it is “dismayed” at the government’s decision. Chair of the group Mike Padgham said: “This will without doubt create another barrier to recruitment at a time when social care providers are facing an employment crisis and struggling to fill one shift at a time.

“What about those already employed? Are employers going to have to force them to have the injection and dismiss them if they don’t? That can’t be right and will surely open the door for legal challenge.”

Meanwhile, the British Medical Association has said: “While some healthcare workers are already required to be immunised against certain conditions to work in certain areas, any specific proposal for the compulsory requirement for all staff to be vaccinated against Covid-19 would raise new ethical and legal implications.”

The opposing argument

Not to be forgotten in the discussion are care home residents and their families. Although many will not approve of workers having to choose between being vaccinated or having their employment terminated, many others will undoubtedly feel relief at the government’s announcement.

Indeed, one issue to consider is whether a care home worker who refuses to be vaccinated and then spreads Covid to residents could be guilty of clinical negligence or malpractice. Might we see a rise in enquiries about taking legal action for such an issue?

Emotions around care homes have run exceptionally high for over a year. This has the potential to manifest itself in disgruntled family members seeking a release in the form of legal action.

The effect on recruitment

With vaccinations now mandatory, it now seems likely that potential new recruits to the social care sector will be dissuaded from following that career path.

In his statement, Mr Padgham added that mandatory vaccinations will “without doubt create another barrier to recruitment at a time when social care providers are facing an employment crisis and struggling to fill one shift at a time”.

This will result in fewer people present to care for some of society’s most vulnerable, which will then have a potential impact on the health of care home residents.

It remains to be seen what the effect of compulsory vaccinations will be, but it is unlikely to come into force without any opposition whatsoever.

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