Vaccination as a Condition of Deployment (VCOD) - Everything you Need to Know

On 14th January, we finally saw the release of the "phase 2" information, detailing the steps needed to be compliant with the new vaccination regulations for healthcare workers, before April 1st. We all knew what was coming, but we didn’t know how we were supposed to do it. Here, then, is a summary of everything you need to know:

What is happening?

From 1st April, employees in patient-facing roles need to be double-vaccinated or have an exemption. It was confirmed in the Phase 1 information that this includes clinicians, receptionists and even cleaners.

We believe that most employees in most practices are going to fall within scope of the regulations, due in part to the size of most practices, and the fact that working away from patients is very difficult. There may be some larger practices that have offices where employees do not have to venture into patient areas, however we expect these to be few and far between.

If your practice recognises a trade union, you should be consulting with them already.

Upcoming Important Date - 3rd February:

The regulations have passed through parliament (so it’s definitely happening now!) and the next big date you need to be aware of is 3rd February. This is the last date that any of your employees have to have been vaccinated in time for the deadline on the 1st April. That means that any employees who have not had their first vaccination by 3rd February need to be passed through this process and will be at risk of dismissal.

Some of the big questions we’ve been asked include:

Can we ask employees for their vaccination status?

YES. It might sound like a very obvious question, but many people have been worried about asking this directly, similar to concerns about asking certain questions in interviews. It has been confirmed in the phase 2 guidance that this is lawful. As it will be illegal to employ someone who isn’t vaccinated in a patient-facing role, it is important that the practice is aware of employees’ and prospective employees’ vaccinations statuses and as such, it is reason enough to be able to ask the question.

How can employees prove their vaccination status?

The “phase 1” guidance recommended using the NHS Covid Pass, available from the NHS app or online as the best way to evidence employees’ vaccination status.

The “phase 2” guidance suggests that practices that have undertaken their own vaccination delivery programme can look up which staff have received vaccinations, or practices can use central databases that record vaccination data from the national vaccination programme. These can be used and integrated with staff records.

How can we store vaccination information?

Vaccination information is special category data and as such needs to be stored with more consideration than some other employee data. However, practices already hold plenty of special category data, so systems should already be in place for this. It should be stored securely, only for as long as the information is needed and only be accessed by those that need to see it. Other examples of special category data that the practice may already store would be someone’s racial or ethnic origins, their sexual orientation or even genetic data.

What’s the process for any employees who haven’t had the vaccine?

If a worker cannot be redeployed to another role and does not want to receive the vaccination, the practice will have no choice but to dismiss the worker. It’s important to understand that unlike a disciplinary process, dismissal won’t be optional—that decision has been made already. What practice managers need to do is follow the process and do everything they can to try and avoid dismissal.

The most recent guidance has given us these steps:

  1. Invite the employee to a meeting to discuss the new regulations and ask the employee for their vaccination status. The invite should be sent in writing to the employee and the meeting can be held in person or virtually.
  2. Hold the initial meeting with the employee and discuss whether their role falls within the scope of the regulations (it’s most likely it will). Discuss any concerns regarding the vaccine with the employee and try to alleviate any worries, and provide access to experts/more information if necessary.
  3. Once you have an understanding of the employee’s position, if needed, consider whether any adjustments can be made to their role to make it fall outside the scope of the regulations or whether there are any suitable roles elsewhere in the business that the employee could be redeployed to. Alternatives to dismissal should be fully explored. Detail your decision making processing in writing.
  4. Formally invite the employee to a meeting to discuss their vaccination status. It must be mentioned in the meeting invite that a result of the meeting may be dismissal if the employee cannot evidence vaccination or an exemption within the timescales. The employee should be made aware that they have the right to be accompanied by a trade union or professional body representative and should be given at least 48 hours’ notice of the meeting.
  5. Hold the meeting. The practice will decide on an outcome by considering all of the information available and decide whether considerate thought has been given to redeployment or alternative roles. The practice will confirm the decision in writing to the employee and retain a copy for their own records
  6. The practice will provide the employee with the right to appeal the decision in their outcome letter. The employee’s notice should run up to at least 31st March 2022. Employees must not be terminated before this date.

If an employee appeals against a dismissal and consequently gets vaccinated, the practice can consider reinstating the employee, however you must act consistently here and if you decide one person can come back, then this should be extended to other employees in the same position too. Annual leave, or unpaid leave, may be taken whilst waiting for a second vaccination, but the employee must not come back to work after April 1st until they are fully vaccinated.

Reason for Dismissal

It is important for practice managers to understand the difference between the five fair reasons for dismissal, and which are relevant to this process.

The first three fair reasons, (the most well-known) are:

  • Conduct—what you would use if someone does something knowingly wrong in the practice / against your disciplinary policy, which can result in a conduct dismissal.
  • Capability—how you would deal with an employee who, for example, couldn’t do their job due to being too sick or simply lacking in capacity for the role.
  • Redundancy—When a job role is no longer required by the business. It is important that this VCOD procedure is not confused with redundancy. Employees going through this VCOD process are not entitled to any redundancy payments.

The final two reasons, which are both applicable to this process are:

  • Statutory Illegality—the employee cannot continue to work in their position without the employer contravening a duty or restriction imposed by, or under, an enactment. This is the reason for dismissal that most of the employees going through this process will face. Other examples of this reason could be if you had an employee on a work visa, their visa ran out and they could not get another one, the practice would have no choice but to dismiss them, otherwise they would be breaking the law.
  • Some other substantial reason—in the HR world, we call this SOSR (pronounced ‘soh-sah’). If the employee refuses to disclose their vaccination status and it cannot be established from existing records, then you can dismiss them for Some Other Substantial Reason. This is a bit of an ‘umbrella’ term and is what you would use if you needed to dismiss somebody and had a really good reason, but it didn’t quite fit under any of the other fair reasons for dismissal.

It is important to understand that choosing to not be vaccinated does not amount to misconduct and as such, no employees following the above process should be dismissed following a disciplinary policy, or be told that it is misconduct. However, if a worker falsified documents which are then provided as evidence of vaccination, this could amount to gross misconduct and any instances such as that should be dealt with using the practice’s disciplinary policy.


We know that all of this is a lot to take in and can seem like a big task ahead. It will be a substantial undertaking for some practices, where there are many unvaccinated employees that do not have exemptions. Here are the really important notes that you should take away from this article, if nothing else.


  • 3rd Feb—Last day for employees to get a vaccination to meet the 1st April deadline.
  • 4th Feb—First day that you can start holding dismissal meetings and serving employees their notice.
  • 31st March—Notice periods must run up to this date. Do not terminate any contracts prior to this date.

The procedure to follow is outlined above, ensuring your reason for dismissal is “Statutory Illegality” for most employees who are choosing not to take up the vaccination.

If you have any employees refusing to give you their vaccination status, remember you are dismissing for “Some Other Substantial Reason”.

All dismissed employees will be provided with their full contractual notice pay.

All FPM members have access to the HR Helpline which can be reached at hrhelp@firstpracticemanagement.co.uk. Do not hesitate to get in touch if you need any help or support with this procedure.


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