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Unvaccinated staff should be welcomed back, urges NHSE

Published on: 9 Feb 2022

Trusts could offer to bring back staff who resigned over the government’s covid vaccine mandate and are urged by NHS England to contact individuals who did ‘as soon as practicable’.

Employers were told earlier this month to scrap plans for dismissing unvaccinated workers after the government said it would consult on revoking a policy that required all patient-facing staff to have received the covid jab before 3 February.

The last-minute U-turn sparked anger and frustration among trust leaders, with some describing it as a “shambles” and a “mess” as NHS Employers criticised the government’s communication over the decision as “completely unacceptable”.

A frequently asked questions document, published by NHS England on Tuesday, has told trusts to get in touch with workers who quit before the government-imposed deadline.

It said: “The [vaccine as a condition of deployment] phase two guidance was clear in advising trusts not to undertake formal processes (which included serving notice of dismissal) until after 3 February.

“However, if a trust has issued a notice of dismissal, it is advised that they meet with the individual to advise them of the government’s proposal to consult on revoking the regulations and to reach a mutual agreement to withdraw the notice of dismissal with immediate effect.”

It added: “It is advised that employers contact individuals who may have resigned due to the requirement to be fully vaccinated to discuss the government’s plan to consult on revoking the regulations.

“This should be done as soon as practicable.”

Since the government announced the U-turn, some have said that those who had resigned, and those who had the vaccine against their preference, may explore legal action.

The new FAQs advised organisations that, if an individual is still within their notice period, then discussions can take place about whether they would like to continue with it, withdraw their resignation, or pause their notice until the outcome of the consultation and parliamentary process is confirmed.

Managers should “follow this with a formal letter to the individual confirming the conversation and agreed next steps,” it said.

The document also said that, if an individual’s notice period has expired and they wish to return to their former role, then their employer could choose to provide them with “reasonable support” and offer them their previous role on the same terms and conditions.

It added that the employer must demonstrate “consistency in their approach” to ensure a “fair and equitable process” had been given to all applicable workers.

The government has stressed in recent days that it remains a “professional duty” to be vaccinated, but not made clear what this means for enforcement by either regulators or employers.