CARE workers' representatives have condemned the government's proposal to force care homes to only employ staff who have received the coronavirus vaccine.

The Lancashire Association of Trade Union Councils, which represents 30,000 workers around the county, says that this plan fails to address the real issues around low pay, lack of personal protection equipment and insecure work hours.

Instead, they believe that care workers should be encouraged rather than coerced into getting vaccinated and that they should receive paid time off in order to do so.

LATUC secretary Peter Billington said: "We think it's ironic that the government has suddenly developed an enthusiasm for regulating conditions of work in care homes, as long as this doesn't apply to inadequate PPE, ongoing poverty pay, totally inadequate sick pay, and zero-hours contracts.

"The message this sends is that the government is happy to urge everyone to "clap for care workers" but those workers can go to hell if they expect anything else apart from coercion to be vaccinated.

"This is a Government which has been content to label retail workers, carers, local government workers, refuse collectors, and many more as low skilled, the very same workers who have been keeping this country running throughout the crisis."

The government first launched its five week consultation on proposals to require staff at older adult care homes have vaccinations on April 14.

However, unions fear that this could force staff out of their jobs unless they receive adequate support from the government and their employers.

Alternative recommendations have included a national care service; a living wage for all care workers, and standard employment contracts for care workers including sick pay, contracted hours and pay for all hours on duty.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Care workers have had a raw deal during this pandemic.

We all want to get as many care workers vaccinated as possible, but forcing workers to get the jab will harm trust and employee relations.

"Ministers should instead strongly encourage every care worker to get vaccinated and make it as easy as possible.

"That means giving care workers paid time off for the appointments and taking away any financial worries by guaranteeing decent sick pay for any recovery time afterwards.”

However, the government has said that the plans are responding to calls already made by care home providers.

Speaking on the launch of the consultation, health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said: “Older people living in care homes are most at risk of suffering serious consequences of Covid-19 and we have seen the grave effects the virus has had on this group.

“Making vaccines a condition of deployment is something many care homes have called for, to help them provide greater protection for staff and residents in older people’s care homes and so save lives.”