Deadline Day: VCOD - Social Care HR
As part of our Social Care HR offering, we had planned to write a blog on (transfer) deadline day regarding the upcoming deadline for employers/employees regarding VCOD.
As would always be the case; this morning, news broke that the government was set to consider a U-turn on the matter after receiving departmental guidance from the Department of Health and Social Care late last week. Since we consider ourselves specialists in Social Care HR, we're going to take the chance and write the article anyway.
VCOD can be considered a large topic area - therefore, we are focussing on what employers need to be doing this week and in the early stages to prepare.
What is VCOD?
VCOD is possibly the most critical social care HR development of the last 12-months and stands for Vaccination as a Condition of Deployment. Effectively, this means mandatory Vaccination of Social Care Workers within a CQC regulated setting. This requirement came into force for those working in residential care homes in November 2021 and those in other Health and Social Care settings on 1st April 2022.
When is the deadline?
As VCOD requires two doses of an approved Covid-19 Vaccination, all affected employees (without an approved exemption) must receive the first dose by 3rd February 2022. This deadline is to allow for the eight-week gap provided for between doses.
Who is exempt?
There are limited exemptions on health grounds, and there is a time-limited exemption for pregnant women.
Updated operational guidance also now provides for a temporary exemption extending the deadlines by up to 6-weeks for anyone unable to get the first dose due to a positive test for COVID-19. This exemption applies as 28 days are required following a positive test + a further 14 days to get vaccinated.
What do employers need to do now?
Employers need to begin consulting immediately with employees (if they haven't done so already) and communicating the deadline of 3rd February.
As part of this, employers may wish to consider precisely how they will handle circumstances whereby anyone cannot provide the required vaccination status/proof of exemption from 1st April. You should consider both groups who have missed the deadline but are between doses and those who refuse to get vaccinated. If not already done so, this should be communicated when making employees aware of the deadline.
Is it possible to dismiss someone for a failure to comply?
Yes, this is the most likely course of action for those who refuse to get vaccinated (and barring the above Government U-Turn).
Illegality or contravention of a statutory duty is one of five potentially fair reasons that an employer can dismiss an employer.
However, it is still vital to conduct an entire and fair process. Before considering any dismissals, providers should consider taking advice from a specialist social care HR consultant.