No time to delay

Joanne Moseley, practice support lawyer, Irwin Mitchell

Jo Moseley, practice support lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, advises care homes and their workers not to delay if they wish to claim medical exemption from having a Covid vaccine and keep their jobs

The deadline of 11 November 2021 has now passed and anyone who works inside a Care Quality Commission registered care home in England must be fully vaccinated against coronavirus (Covid-19) unless they are medically exempt.

The new NHS Covid Pass system was not up and running as quickly as the government anticipated and it put in place a temporary measure that allowed staff to self-certify they had a medical exemption. However, after Friday 24 December, care homes will not be able to rely on self-certifications and staff will need to demonstrate they have a right to work via the pass system, which is now fully operational.

Care homes and care workers must not wait for this deadline as the process for obtaining a medical exemption is time consuming. Applicants must telephone 119 to obtain a form, fill it in and then send it to their doctor to complete. The government estimates that it will take 2-3 weeks for applications to be processed. However, it is not an electronic process – applicants will receive the form via the post – so it could take much longer than this.

We are about four weeks away from Christmas. The postal service always slows down during the festive season and care homes will need to find out if staff, who have self-certified that they are exempt from the rules, have started the process. If they have not, they will need to encourage them to apply and explain that they may lose their jobs if they do not have a Covid Pass in time.

It is also worth bearing in mind that some people who claimed to be medically exempt might be mistaken. The sooner care home management knows about this the more time they will have to try and find cover.

Pregnant women will still be able use MAT B1 to show their Covid status and do not have to apply for a medical exemption under the Covid Pass scheme. However, their exemption will expire 16 weeks after they have given birth. Once they return to work, they will have to be vaccinated unless they have another medical exemption.