Requiring vaccination of care home workforce ‘reasonable’, says human rights watchdog

It is “reasonable” to legally require care home staff to be vaccinated against coronavirus, the UK’s human rights watchdog has said.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said a proportionate approach to requiring vaccination for care home workers could help ease restrictions, allow staff to work safely and give residents more freedoms.

The Government should include important safeguards and minimise the risk of discrimination by including exemptions in legislation, such as for those who cannot have the jab for medical reasons.

Any legislation should also have a sunset clause and be subject to regular review, it added.

For five weeks, the Government held a consultation on making vaccination a condition of deployment for staff at older adult care homes in England.

When the consultation was launched in mid-April, the Department of Health and Social Care said a decision was expected to be made in the summer.

Several care groups and unions have said they are concerned about potential mandatory vaccination.

In its submission to the consultation, the EHRC acknowledged that this would be a “significant departure” from current health policy.

But it said there is some precedent, and that the move could protect service users who are at particular risk from the virus.

The submission reads: “In legislating for mandatory vaccination the Government is right to prioritise protection of the right to life for residents and staff.

“In our view it is therefore reasonable to require care home staff to be vaccinated in order to work directly with older and disabled people, subject to some important safeguards to ensure the requirement remains proportionate and to minimise the risk of unlawful discrimination or breaches of care workers’ human rights.”

An EHRC spokesman said: “Requiring care home staff to be vaccinated offers a way of protecting older residents who are most at risk of severe illness and death due to Covid-19. This would support their right to a private and family life, to health, to live independently, as well as reducing the risk to workers.

“Any requirements should be implemented proportionately with exemptions for the small number of people who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.

“Mandatory vaccination it is not a new idea, as some NHS Trusts do require staff to have hepatitis B vaccines.”

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