Occupational health practitioners should avoid getting involved in employment or disciplinary matters if employees covered by mandatory vaccination rules refuse to get a Covid-19 jab, the Faculty of Occupational Medicine (FOM) has warned.
New guidance from FOM regarding OH’s involvement in mandatory vaccination programmes, released after MPs approved plans to make Covid-19 vaccinations a legal requirement for all patient-facing health and social care workers in England, has stated that OH practitioners should be mindful of ethical and consent issues, and should not disclose information about an individual’s vaccination status to an employer without the individual’s consent.
They should also avoid getting involved in any employment matters that arise where an employee has not been vaccinated. For example, OH should not get involved in decisions about whether a worker should be redeployed, suspended or dismissed – these are matters for HR and managers, FOM has suggested.
OH practitioners will not need to provide an opinion on medical exemptions from the vaccination requirement, including confirming or refuting exemptions, the guidance states.
From April 2022, anyone in a patient-facing role will need to have two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, unless they have an exemption.
The requirement will apply to those working in NHS and private hospitals, general practices, community services, and any other health or care organisation regulated by the Care Quality Commission.
Mandatory Covid jabs
Since November 2021 all workers who enter Care Quality Commission-regulated care homes have been required to be fully vaccinated.
FOM president Professor Steve Nimmo said: “We have been discussing the mandatory vaccination programme with NHS leaders and this latest guidance sets out our position clearly.
“When the programme is implemented, occupational health professionals should be mindful of ethical and consent issues, and be careful not to be associated with any disciplinary process.”
Prof Nimmo added that OH practitioners should continue to encourage the uptake of Covid-19 vaccines.
“Throughout the pandemic occupational health professionals have provided critical support to the NHS, businesses and organisations in managing risk and protecting workers,” he said.
FOM’s guidance also advises that:
- Senior OH staff “may be well placed” to contribute to strategic discussions about the best way in which the programme can be implemented in their organisation, including data considerations
- OH staff may need to be involved in risk assessment of those who are not vaccinated
- OH may be involved in discussions about promoting vaccination and counselling those who are hesitant about getting jabbed.
When health secretary Sajid Javid mooted plans for mandatory Covid-19 jabs for frontline health workers last year, OH practitioners feared being caught between vaccine-hesitant employees and those with genuine medical exemptions, and employers wanting to ensure they are in full compliance with the requirement.