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There is no legal requirement for any individual to be vaccinated against Covid19 to fulfil any job role, but there is some concern that employees in the Care Sector will be required to, and some already make the same demands of the Flu Jab.

UNISON’s primary demand is that all key workers dealing with the public in face to face settings should be prioritised for an offer of the vaccine, but always on the principle of Informed Consent.

In the NHS We have secured a commitment that there will be no negative implications for staff who refuse the vaccine. We are also working to confirm that immunisation will not influence
decisions made about terms and conditions such as re-deployment, shielding, or pay progression.

This should inform the Care sector  but there may be some considering following Barchester Care. Advice for members there is repeated below although we don’t think they apply to any Plymouth in UNISON members. However if any employer does contact the branch right away as we are likely to want to treat the problem similarly

UNISON support for Barchester members

As you will be aware from our Covid updates for UNISON members; UNISON has both strongly advocated for health and care staff to be given priority access to the vaccination and strongly encouraged take-up of the vaccine.  However, as with the flu vaccination, no health or care worker should be forced to receive the COVID-19 immunisation.

Employers should enable staff to make an informed choice by the provision of information, in stark contrast Barchester is pursuing a policy which places it at odds with the vast majority of employers in the sector and good practice being urged by government. Staff who are feeling anxious or worried about receiving the vaccine need to be understood, reassured and persuaded of the positive case for vaccination, not threatened. Indeed the World Health Organisation does not recommend a mandatory strategy to increase vaccine coverage.

Many members have expressed their concerns to us about the punitive nature of Barchester’s policy. The statements they have issued to staff directly link terms and conditions of employment to taking the vaccine. Terms and conditions are being used as a means to pressurise people who are hesitant or currently refusing to take the vaccine.  This is not acceptable and is counter productive.

UNISON has repeatedly advised Health and Care employers like Barchester that “Immunisation should not influence decisions made about terms and conditions such as redeployment, shielding or pay”.  Most have responded positively, instilling confidence rather than fear in their staff.  Yet Barchester continue to disregard this and have rejected our repeated requests to work in partnership to address concerns. Our primary goal in our most recent contact was to urge against a policy which will undermine trust and confidence in the vaccination process and reduce the overall number of care workers vaccinated. UNISON is seeking to engage constructively with Barchester to help resolve this and increase the uptake of vaccination through support and reassurance. That will maximise safety in care settings. Barchester’s approach runs counter to that objective. The tone of Barchester’s communications reinforces the impression that this policy has been implemented without reflecting on the actual impact it will have.

We know vaccination is not the panacea to stop the spread of the virus, and good infection control measures must still continue. We are strong supporters of the vaccination programme and have distributed positive messages to that effect to our branches and members, but this must be based on informed choice, with acceptance that not everyone will chosen to have the vaccine. The National Care Association has identified that about 6-8% of staff will be resistant to taking the vaccine due to health or cultural reasons. We have also made public statements along the same lines.

If you have been impacted by Barchester’s approach please contact us urgently so that we can work together to address this on; swcare@unison.co.uk

The vast majority of employers are supporting and encouraging staff to inform their choice about whether to have the vaccine, where employer adopt a punitive and mandatory approach as with Barchester to date we will support our members as we are doing already to lodge grievances. Care staff have suffered too much already through this pandemic and we want to speak up for all staff – supporting maximum vaccine uptake, while helping staff with genuine concerns to resolve these

We remain ready to work in partnership with Barchester.

UNISON Social care lead for the South West

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.”

UNISON Policy

Our advice to Barchester members is not to sign the policy, as this may imply agreement with its content and consent for these new requirements to apply to their conditions of employment. Instead members should formally register that they will not sign the policy, pending resolution of the collective grievance submitted by UNISON, which objects to the coercive and potentially discriminatory nature of the policy. They should make clear that they are not against the vaccination programme itself, but the high-handed way it is being forced on them as employees in lieu of a process of informed consent.

“If any UNISON members are subject to detriment for refusing to have the vaccine, then those individual members will be provided with support and if necessary, legal advice and representation from Thompsons under UNISON’s rules, as long as the member’s response is reasonable and lawful.”

We have not yet heard of any other employers in this region (there have been other instances with employers in other regions) adopting the same approach as Barchester indeed as referenced in email to members it appears majority of health and social care employers are following national government and WHO guidance to adopt educational informed choice route to secure maximum vaccine take up, but no doubt we will share information of any employers who adopt similar approach to Barchester.