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Companies should be informing not intimidating employees

The government must take action against care home employers refusing to employ staff hesitant about having the Covid vaccine, or intimidating others into having the injection by linking it to pay and employment, says UNISON today (Friday).

If the vaccine programme is to work properly and maximum take-up across the social care secured, individuals​ should be encouraged, not intimidated, into receiving a jab, the union says.

UNISON has written to care minister Helen Whately calling for the government to intervene. It follows the announcement that Barchester Healthcare will not hire workers who refuse the vaccine, and will restrict promotions, bonuses and other rewards only to those who have had the injection. A small number of other companies are understood to be considering following suit.

This heavy-handed approach is exactly the opposite of what’s needed to encourage the maximum number of care workers to come forward for the vaccine, says UNISON. It is urging all care companies to adopt a similar approach to that being used across the NHS.

UNISON says the Barchester move goes against the government’s own advice and it wants to see ministers make a stand against the company.

In its letter, UNISON urges the care minister to “send a strong message to employers that putting pressure on staff to take the vaccine as a condition of their work is totally unacceptable”.

“We are asking that you act now to make it clear to the sector that the government expects employers to behave responsibly and promote trust and confidence in the vaccine programme,“ the letter adds.

UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “The vaccination programme is the way out of this health crisis. The more care workers who get a jab, the safer the sector will be. But care employers who put punitive measures in place for staff, or make it a condition of work, are undermining trust and confidence in the vaccine. They are also at odds with the sensible approach being taken by most employers and the NHS. Companies would do better to concentrate on informing staff about the benefits of the vaccination, rather than intimidating them. Ministers should be firm with Barchester that its approach is wrong and must be reversed.”

Plymouth in UNISON Secretary Kevin Treweeks said “I have strongly encouraged anybody that has spoken to me with concerns to accept the vaccine, but this union will also strongly advocate for free choice as to who takes it. People have to have agency over their own body and putting people under pressure only gives credence to conspiracy theories. There are plenty of other public facing workers in schools, nurseries and community settings that are queueing up for their dose.

Notes to editors:

– UNISON is the UK’s largest union, with more than 1.3 million members providing public services – in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, private and community sectors.

Media contacts:

Anthony Barnes M: 07834 864794 E: a.barnes@unison.co.uk

Liz Chinchen M: 07778 158175 E: press@unison.co.uk

Plymouth in UNISON T: 01752692260 E: office@plymouthinunison.org.uk