NHS staff who have to be redeployed because they refuse to be vaccinated against covid may be forced to ‘compete’ for a new role and could find their pay and pensions affected if their transfer becomes permanent, according to new NHS England guidance.
Health and social care secretary Sajid Javid announced last month that all patient-facing NHS staff would need to have received two doses of the covid vaccine by 1 April 2022.
This includes non-clinical staff who may have face-to-face contact with patients, such as receptionists, porters and cleaners.
Guidance published this week urged organisations to identify options for potential redeployment to non-face-to-face roles, but advised against taking formal action until the new rules receive Parliamentary approval.
The guidance said: “Employers should consider the possibility of redeployment for staff in scope of the regulations and who remain unvaccinated on 1 April 2022.”
“It is noted that the possibility of preserving security of employment applies only to those employed under a contract of employment with that employer and not to other workers who are in the scope of the regulations,” it said.
The guidance revealed that a “national redeployment framework” would be “developed and shared in due course.”
The guidance added that if alternative solutions, such as restricting staff duties, are “not applicable”, then employers are to consider redeployment opportunities locally and across the integrated care system.
It acknowledged that “opportunities for redeployment may be challenging for smaller organisations, including many primary care providers”.
The guidance said: “If there are several potentially suitable redeployees, some form of competitive assessment will need to take place and [this] should be made clear in advance and applied consistently.”
It also warned that: “Permanent redeployment of employees will potentially impact upon their pay and pension. For clinical staff moving to a non-clinical role, maintaining their professional registration will also be impacted. Staff are encouraged to seek advice from the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) and their professional governing body.”
The NHSE guidance said the regulations are expected to begin on 1 April, subject to their passage through Parliament, but there will be a 12-week “grace period” from when they are made to when they are enforced.
This period is intended to give both providers and workers time to meet the new regulatory requirements.
NHSE has also told organisations to:
- Review and assess which roles are likely to fall within the scope of the new regulations;
- “Actively support” uptake of the vaccine via communication and engagement;
- Understand and document “in scope” workers vaccination and exemption status;
- Agree arrangements with suppliers of temporary, agency or bank workers, education institutions who provide students and any other partners who supply workers or volunteers, who will be required to evidence their vaccination. The guidance makes it clear the NHS employers will be “required to demonstrate that they have systems and processes in place to evidence and monitor that all independent contractors, agency or bank staff who have face-to-face contact with patients and/or service users and who are deployed, as part of CQC regulated activity, are fully vaccinated against covid-19”.
- Consider “Whether potential suitable alternative roles should be ring-fenced with consideration given to other staff who may be subject to redeployment for a reason unrelated to the regulations.”
The guidance also said that although flu vaccination requirements will not be introduced into the regulation, the government will keep the situation under review after this winter.