James Forsyth

Boris hints at a ‘no jab, no job’ policy

Boris hints at a 'no jab, no job' policy
(Photo by Simon Dawson/No. 10 Downing Street)
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The most striking moment of Monday night's press conference was Chris Whitty’s declaration that it was the ‘professional responsibility’ on health and social care staff to get the vaccine. Whitty stressed that the question of contracts — whether there should be a contractual obligation to take the jab — was a political decision and so not one for him. Boris Johnson then followed up by talking about ‘very high quality care home groups’ that were looking at making vaccination a condition of employment.

The significance of these exchanges is that they suggest the government is moving towards the idea of allowing hospitals and care homes to insist employees are vaccinated. If this happens, it will be a highly significant moment. There will immediately be a debate about whether this should spread to other sectors of the economy; though the case in health and social care is clearly considerably stronger than in any other field.

‘No jab, no job’ policies are something that makes one instinctively uncomfortable; they are very intrusive. But in hospitals and care homes, where the refusal to have the vaccine could put vulnerable people particularly at risk, I can see the case for them. Though it would, obviously, be preferable if ‘professional responsibility’ rather than contractual compulsion was enough to make people in this sector get vaccinated.