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COVID-19: important legislation/guidance published this week

Regulations to impose compulsory vaccinations for care home staff and new 'Working Safely' guidance published

Andrew Collier
Andrew Collier HR Adviser
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As England approaches Step 4 of the roadmap next week,  two major updates in the legal landscape were rolled out this week - neither without controversy. 
  
Regulations making vaccinations compulsory for care home staff

On 22 June 2021, the draft Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) (Amendment)(Coronavirus) Regulations 2021 were laid before Parliament.  The draft Regulations - which require staff employed in registered care homes to be fully vaccinated unless they are exempt - were approved by the House of Commons on 13 July 2021. 
  
The draft Regulations are subject to the affirmative procedure (requiring the approval of both Houses of Parliament) before they become law and will come into force 16 weeks after they have been made, providing both employers and employees a period of time in which to understand how they will adapt and apply the compulsory vaccination rules.

Step 4: Working Safely Guidance from 19 July 2021

The government has also published updated Working Safely guidance to apply from when England moves to step 4 of the roadmap next Monday. The guidance, which will be kept under review, has been re-categorised into six sector-specific guides covering the main activities (separate guidelines applying for niche activities), with workplaces such as offices, factories and labs now grouped together.  
 
The guidance sets out six priority actions businesses should take from 19 July 2021 to protect staff and customers, including health and safety assessments, providing adequate ventilation, regular cleaning, turning away those with COVID-19 symptoms, enabling people to check in to premises, and communicating and providing training on the current safety measures in place.  
 
The guidance makes it clear that it does not supersede employers' existing legal obligations relating to health and safety, employment, and equalities duties in relation to employees, workers and customers. Rather, it is non-statutory guidance to take into account when complying with those existing obligations. Employers are advised to give extra consideration to workers who are at higher risk, and those facing mental and physical health difficulties. Employers should support them by discussing their individual needs and taking any additional precautions advised by their clinicians.

Many commentators are observing that the Working Safely guidance appears to go much further than the tone of government announcements about removing restrictions and social distancing measures.  It could well be likely that we see confusion and conflict from next week when many will inevitably feel that a business is doing too much, and others feel not enough!   Good luck all....
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