The UK Government must take action against care homes refusing to employ staff hesitant about having the Covid vaccine, or intimidating others into having the injection by linking it to pay and employment, according to public service union UNISON.

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 noted. It has written to Care Minister Helen Whately calling for the government to intervene.

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

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. However, 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.”