Enforced COVID vaccinations for care staff “a breach of human rights” claim

An Essex respite care charity claim that enforced COVID-19 vaccinations are “a breach of human rights’”.

Chigwell’s Revitalise, which provides respite care breaks to unpaid home carers and their disabled family members, has branded the move as “political” and a consequence of an impending COVID-19 review.

UNISON, which represents the majority of care home workers, say the Government’s decision to take a “sledgehammer” to COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy means many care staff may simply walk away from an already “understaffed, undervalued and underpaid sector”.

The Government has announced that coronavirus vaccinations are to become compulsory for staff at care homes in England.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it was a “sensible and reasonable step” and he would consult on extending it to the NHS. There are no plans to extend mandatory vaccinations beyond health and care workers.

Workers will have 16 weeks to get both jabs from the time regulations are approved by Parliament. If they do not, they could face being redeployed away from frontline care or potentially losing their job.

Caroline Hennessy, UNISON Eastern head of social care, said:  “The only way Essex can get out of the pandemic is for everyone that can to have their jabs.

“Encouragement has the best results and research shows coercion makes the nervous less likely to be vaccinated.

“The Government’s decision to take a sledgehammer to this problem means many care staff may simply walk away from an already understaffed, undervalued and underpaid sector.

“But if these heavy-handed plans show anything, it’s that ministers can implement changes across the whole care sector when it suits.

“Their claims that they are powerless to introduce proper pay rises in such a fragmented sector will ring rather hollow in the future.

“And if the government won’t introduce a living wage for staff, Essex County Council leaders must step up and ensure care workers get the real living wage they need and deserve.

“The NHS has been successfully vaccinating the public and its own staff for more than six months. There’s no reason to change this successful approach.”

Respite care charity Revitalise say it is both an invasion of their staff’s privacy and a breach of their human rights. The charity also says that the PPE their staff wear is sufficient and fear many colleagues would resign if forced to be vaccinated.

Revitalise CEO Jan Tregelles said: “When the pandemic started Revitalise took legal advice to know what our employment rights are and the biggest issue is around the human rights for individuals to choose their own invasive healthcare treatments.

“It’s clear the Government’s stance on this is completely political and a nod to the impending review of the COVID-19 outbreak. This would be an absolute breach of human rights.”

Around 30 per cent of our workers are not vaccinated and around 20 per cent are not doing so for personal reasons.

“Therefore if the vaccine were to be mandated, we would expect a mass resignation amongst colleagues,” added Ms Tregelles.

“The PPE diligently worn by our teams every day is perfectly sufficient and is not an invasion of privacy.”

Essex County Council – which is responsible for adult social care in the county – has been approached for comment.

Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter