University of Sheffield study reveals reasons why some care workers remain unvaccinated

The majority of unvaccinated care workers who fear losing their jobs as a result of mandatory vaccination ruled did not receive the jabs due to poor working conditions, a University of Sheffield study reveals.

Thursday, 11th November 2021, 1:23 pm

From today, everyone working in a care home in England must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 unless medically exempt, but a study by University of Sheffield shows that there are several factors that influenced their decisions.

According to the report, employment conditions such as zero-hour contracts, no sick leave and poor pay are among the reasons why some workers have been hesitant to obtain the vaccine.

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Although only a minority of care workers are unvaccinated, the University of Sheffield study shows that the working conditions they experience, such as zero hour contracts, a lack of sick pay, and low pay, are key to understanding why some have been reluctant to get the vaccine

Some employees say they are afraid of getting sick from vaccinations and having to take unpaid time off.

There are already more than 100,000 vacancies in the care sector, and there are fears that thousands of care workers could leave after the mandatory vaccination deadline.

Tom Hunt, Deputy Director of the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI) at the University of Sheffield, conducted a review of evidence on mandatory vaccination, including the Government’s consultation into the topic.

A survey by UNISON found that care workers were nearly twice as likely to decline vaccination if they had faced threats from their employer or had not received vaccination advice.

As a result, the report by Hunt calls for the Government to engage with staff and provide them with better pay and conditions to alleviate financial concerns and remove practical barriers that can stop people from attending vaccine appointments.

The latest data shows that 87 per cent of care home workers are fully vaccinated, and research has shown that when people are well informed and treated with respect they are more likely to be persuaded to be vaccinated, compared to when their employment is threatened.

‘Mandatory vaccination set to deepen staffing crisis’

Tom Hunt, lead author of the report, said: “Mandatory vaccination looks set to significantly deepen the staffing crisis in care. The most effective way to overcome vaccine hesitancy is through persuasion, not applying pressure, and removing barriers that make people anxious about vaccines.

“This means improving care workers' low pay and poor conditions which are central to understanding why a minority are hesitant to get vaccinated.

“Many dedicated care workers are exhausted after 18 months on the frontline of the pandemic. When their job is low-paid, stressful, has high exposure to Covid-19, and workers may feel under additional pressure to get vaccinated, we shouldn't be surprised if some choose to leave to find better-paid and less stressful work.

“The Government is now introducing mandatory vaccination for frontline NHS staff. The health service is already facing acute pressures from underfunding, growing backlogs, and the ongoing pandemic. To avoid a similar staffing shortage in the NHS getting worse, lessons from the care sector will need to be learnt.”

In Sheffield alone, a total of 168 care workers at Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust remain unprotected against the virus.

Meanwhile, mandatory Covid-19 vaccines will be introduced for frontline NHS and social workers in England beginning April 1 next year, after record shows more than 100,000 people working in the NHS in England remain unvaccinated.