• Thursday, December 08, 2022

HEADLINE STORY

Covid-status certificate could be ‘unlawful indirect discrimination’, says watchdog

Photo: iStock

By: Pramod Thomas

THE independent equalities watchdog in the UK has said that the Covid-status certificate scheme could lead to unlawful indirect discrimination.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has told the Cabinet Office that such documents could create a ‘two-tier society’, reported The Guardian. 

Ministers are considering to introduce a Covid-status certificate as passports to certain events later this year, reports said.

According to the EHRC, employers should not be allowed to hire workers on a ‘no jab, no job’ policy until all young people had been offered a vaccine.

It added that plans to make vaccine mandatory for care workers helping older people may not be lawful.

The watchdog said that implementation of Covid-status certificates may exclude groups from access to essential services and employment, including migrants, those from minority ethnic backgrounds and poorer socio-economic groups.

The warnings emerged as the health secretary, Matt Hancock, gave the clearest indication yet that care workers would be required to have a vaccination or be refused deployment in care homes.

The government said the initiative could later be extended to the wider health and social care workforce.

According to Hancock, only around half of care homes in England had enough people vaccinated. Government scientific advisers believe 80 per cent of staff and 90 per cent of residents need to be vaccinated to provide a minimum level of protection against outbreaks of the virus.

The Guardian reported that Johnson may face a significant Tory rebellion if he pushes ahead with introducing the certificates and calls for a vote in parliament, with 41 Conservative backbenchers vowing to oppose them.

Labour has previously vowed to vote against “vaccine passports” but has been less clear about its stance on a wider certificate scheme used to show someone’s vaccine, test or antibody status. It says it is still waiting for the government to formally present a firm proposal.

“We share the EHRC’s concerns and hope the government will take note,” Marsha de Cordova, the shadow women and equalities secretary, told The Guardian. 

Responding to the government’s call for evidence on Covid-status certificates, the EHRC said that if they were introduced, it should only be for a limited time and subject to regular review, along with ‘strict parliamentary scrutiny’.

The government wants to make vaccination of carers part of the “fundamental standard” of providing safe care, enshrined in the Social Care Act. Care homes which fail to show their staff are vaccinated could, in the most serious cases, have their registration to operate cancelled.

Unison, a trade union representing health workers, described the plan as “the wrong approach” and called for persuasion – rather than coercion – of care workers, many of whom have cited fears, albeit so far unfounded, that the vaccine could affect pregnancies.

A government spokesperson told The Guardian: “Covid-status certification could have an important role to play both domestically and internationally, as a temporary measure. We are fully considering equality and ethical concerns as part of our ongoing review.”

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