It’s the question on everyone’s lips as coronavirus vaccines make their way around the world.
If you refuse to be vaccinated, can you lose your job?
With the quickly produced vaccines causing controversy as rollout plans are announced, and the first batches hitting Australian shores just this week, nurses in the UK have come up against that exact barrier.
According to ‘The Mail on Sunday’ UK, “several carers” have claimed that care home bosses have been threatening them with losing their jobs or severe pay penalties should they refuse the vaccine.
“I told them I was scared to have the jab but they didn’t listen to my worries,” a worker from Manchester told the Mail on Sunday’s ‘Medical Minefield’ podcast.
“They tried to make me feel guilty, telling me I could bring the virus into the home and people would die.
“They said I had to have it within the month or find another place to work,” said the anonymous woman.
Another anonymous carer from a residential care home in Liverpool said that bosses had threatened financial penalties should she refuse to take up the vaccine after expressing doubts about it.
“I thought [the vaccine] had been rushed through, and hadn’t been trialled sufficiently,” she said.
“We’ve all been told that if we don’t have it and we’re absent from work because of anything COVID related, we won’t get our monthly salary.”
According to the deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), Professor Anthony Harnden, the uptake of the vaccine in care workers is still “far too low,” with only about 66% of care workers in the UK receiving the vaccine despite extensive testing of its safety.
“If [care home staff] are to stop potentially transmitting to those vulnerable people who they look after and care for deeply, they need to take the immunisation up,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today program.
“The message needs to come across loud and clear.”
In the UK, an estimated 680,000 people work in residential aged care, meaning over 230,000 care workers, have yet to be vaccinated.
And with around 400,000 people living in residential care and roughly one-third of all COVID deaths in the UK coming from care home residents, the rate of vaccinations among care workers has become a source of concern for some.
Downing Street has condemned ‘no jab, no job’ policies, calling them “discriminatory” and saying that the vaccine should not be mandatory.
Professor Harnden has agreed with this sentiment, saying that he’d rather persuade people to be vaccinated rather than forcing them or threatening them with job losses and pay penalties.
However, some UK care homes have taken matters into their own hands, with reports of homes refusing to hire new staff who haven’t had the coronavirus vaccination, and others offering bonuses, promotions and enhanced sick pay to those who do receive the vaccine.
However, one of the UK’s largest worker unions has accused these care homes of “punitive” tactics, with Unison general secretary Christina McAnea penning a letter to Health Minister Helen Whately.
“The vaccination programme is the way out of this health crisis,” McAnea said in the letter.
“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 much better to concentrate on informing staff about the benefits of the vaccination, rather than intimidating them.”
Are you a worker in the aged care sector? How would you feel if your bosses imposed rules and mandatory vaccinations like these, do you think it’s fair? Let us know in the comments.