UNISON is calling on the government to take action against care home employers refusing to employ staff hesitant about having the Covid-19 vaccine or intimidating others into having the injection by linking it to pay and employment.
If the vaccine programme is to work properly and maximum take-up across the social care secured, individuals should be encouraged, not intimidated, into receiving a jab, the union says.
UNISON has written to care minister Helen Whately calling for the government to intervene.
This follows the announcement that Barchester Healthcare will not hire workers who refuse the vaccine, and will restrict promotions, bonuses and other rewards only to those who have had the injection. A small number of other companies are understood to be considering following suit.
This heavy-handed approach is exactly the opposite of what’s needed to encourage the maximum number of care workers to come forward for the vaccine, says UNISON. It is urging all care companies to adopt a similar approach to that being used across the NHS.
UNISON says the Barchester move goes against the government’s own advice and it wants to see ministers make a stand against the company.
In its letter, UNISON urges the care minister to ‘send a strong message to employers that putting pressure on staff to take the vaccine as a condition of their work is totally unacceptable’.
UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: ‘The vaccination programme is the way out of this health crisis. The more care workers who get a jab, the safer the sector will be.
‘But care employers who put punitive measures in place for staff, or make it a condition of work, are undermining trust and confidence in the vaccine. They are also at odds with the sensible approach being taken by most employers and the NHS.
‘Companies would do better to concentrate on informing staff about the benefits of the vaccination, rather than intimidating them. Ministers should be firm with Barchester that its approach is wrong and must be reversed.’
A government spokesperson said: ‘Vaccines offer the best form of protection against the virus and the vaccine is not compulsory. The UK operates a system of informed consent for vaccinations and demand has been extremely high with more than 11 million people vaccinated so far.
‘However, it is strongly recommended that all frontline social care workers who can receive a vaccine choose to take it. Getting vaccinated will help protect people from becoming seriously ill from Covid, so they can continue to be there for their family, friends and the people they care for.
‘Employers must ensure that work contracts are not used to unfairly discriminate against individuals.’
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