28 March, 2022
As frequently highlighted by the media over the course of the last 2 years, one of the most highly affected employment groups during the pandemic were those providing care for others. This sector took care of some of the most vulnerable members of society during the various lockdowns implemented in the UK.
The care industry faced immediate pressure as it became clear that the UK had insufficient levels of PPE including facemasks, gloves, aprons, eye protection and sanitiser. This left both those working in care homes and in the community at a heightened risk of catching the coronavirus at a point when very little was known about the disease.
One carer that I have spoken to advised that at the beginning of the pandemic she continued to conduct home visits. Not only was she not provided with adequate PPE but she was also not told whether there was anyone in the household she was visiting who was infected with the coronavirus. It was important to her that she continued to do her job and look after the service users in her care but she also was acutely aware that she was putting herself at risk. She subsequently caught covid and is currently unable to work due to the ongoing symptoms of long covid.
Care homes were particularly susceptible to outbreaks of covid. This put the care workers at both a heightened risk of catching covid and also left them vulnerable to mental health issues given the extra stresses and pressures they were put under.
In November 2021, it became mandatory for those working in the care sector to be vaccinated. Many care workers subsequently lost their jobs as a result of this, although the decision was reversed by the Health Secretary Sajid Javid on 15th March 2022 and the government has repealed the mandate.
Discussions are ongoing within the UK government regarding Covid 19 becoming a prescribed disease which will mean that those who contracted the disease through work can both make a civil claim for compensation and apply for government benefits. It is likely that we will see care workers bringing a significant volume of such claims. Employers will need to prove that adequate risk assessments were carried out in relation to Covid control, PPE and managing the risk. They will also need to show that adequate PPE was provided.
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