Rehiring vaccine mandate losses: what should HR know?

Mandatory vaccination for health and social care workers will end early on 15 March Sajid Javid has announced. So what happens to those workers that have already left?

Health and social care HR teams, pressed for staff, have been encouraged by NHS England to speak to recent leavers about the relaxation of vaccine rules. 

While some may be keen to re-engage staff who had left over the mandate, this may prove difficult, according to Alan Price, CEO of consultancy BrightHR.

He told HR magazine: “Employees may, understandably, be upset at the prospect of returning to a role that they have previously filled for many years, but as a new starter with no service-related benefits.”

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Under legislation, if an individual’s original contract of employment was terminated more than one full week beforehand, there is no automatic entitlement to maintain their previous length of service.

NHS England’s guidance states: “If the individual’s notice period has expired and they wish to return to their former role, the employer may choose to provide the individual with reasonable support with respect to the recruitment and selection process and extend an offer to re-engage them to their former role and on the same terms and conditions of employment.”

This, however, would be voluntary for the employer. 

Matt Jenkin, employment partner at Moorcrofts told HR magazine: "There is nothing in the government announcement that requires those individuals to be reemployed by their former employer."

Unless the employer agreed otherwise, he said, that new period of employment would mean workers waiting two years before regaining protection from unfair dismissal, or the right to a statutory redundancy payment.

He added: “There is also no guarantee that if the employee was rehired that they would be entitled to the same benefits that they enjoyed during their original period of employment.”

Price added that where organisations want to maintain previous service, they should think carefully about how the interim period, when they were not employed, will be dealt with.

“Issues arise both from the perspective of pay and holiday accrual for the non-employed time, as well as from a consistency perspective for any other employees who decided to re-engage with the company following termination of employment.”