Nurse who remain unvaccinated against Covid from April could face dismissal, as redeployment is not guaranteed, NHS England guidance has said.
The guidance released today said that redeployment of unvaccinated staff should be considered, but ‘may not be feasible or practical’ for ‘many providers’. It also said that employers can be given access to staff’s Covid vaccination status to ‘reduce burdens on organisations and staff’.
The Government announced in November that Covid-19 vaccination would be a ‘condition of deployment’ for all patient-facing staff in the health sector from April this year.
An FAQ document, released in a suite of new guidance by NHS England today, said: ‘If you choose not to be vaccinated, your line manager will discuss with you any reasonable possibilities for redeployment.
‘However, please be aware that redeployment opportunities will be limited, and this will not be a guaranteed option. Also, redeployment opportunities may not be on the same/similar terms and conditions you currently hold eg there may be changes to your band, pay and working arrangements.’
Guidance for employers said that organisations should ‘proactively identify roles not in scope of the regulations and if possible and if it doesn’t compromise patient care and services, pause external recruitment processes to allow for internal redeployment’.
But it added that ‘it is acknowledged that for many providers, redeployment of staff for the purposes of vaccination as a condition of deployment (VCOD) may not be feasible or practical’.
It said: ‘Employers should consider an individual’s reasons for declining to be vaccinated and examine options short of dismissal, where appropriate. However, if it’s not feasible to implement alternative solutions, staff will be taken through a formal process to dismissal.’
Any such process must be ‘fair and reasonable’ and staff must be given ‘reasonable opportunity’ to be vaccinated or provide evidence they are exempt before action is taken, it said.
Employers should work with their trade union or ‘staff side representatives’ regarding redeployment or dismissal, it added.
The guidance stressed that this ‘is not a redundancy exercise’ and that dismissal will not trigger any redundancy entitlements such as payments.
Meanwhile, the guidance also said that employers can now access the vaccination status of their employees themselves.
It said: ‘By getting this information from NHS England’s immunisation database individuals will not need to provide evidence of their vaccination status, making it easier for both them and their managers.’
The guidance states that a ‘small number of designated members of staff’ can obtain individuals’ Covid vaccination status recorded on the ‘NHS England National Immunisation System (NIMS) database and linked to the NHS Electronic Staff Record (ESR) number’.
It explained that accessing this data is lawful under data protection law because it will be ‘necessary for employment purposes’ and ‘necessary for the management of healthcare services’.
This comes after unions last week called on the Government immediately delay plans for mandatory Covid-19 vaccination of NHS staff in England if a ‘catastrophic impact’ on services is to be avoided.