COVID Vaccinations and Workplace Policy
Federal and State Governments policies state that vaccinations are voluntary. There is no plan to mandate them for any particular workgroup, such as what occurred through Public Health Orders for influenza vaccination in the aged care sector in the earlier stages of the pandemic. However, if there is sufficient evidence that COVID vaccinations reduce the risk of serious illness and death for people contracting the virus and reduce the risk of transmission, this policy may be changed.
Employers should consider their policies concerning COVID vaccinations in the overall management of COVID risks for their workplaces. In the absence of regulations mandating vaccinations for employees and other workers, some employers may have justification for requiring compulsory vaccination through a reasonable and lawful direction. Such a direction, however, would need to comply with any contract, award, or enterprise agreement and any applicable Commonwealth, state or territory laws.
To determine whether such a direction would be reasonable would depend on the particular circumstances of a person’s employment and the circumstances in which it is given. There are a number of other factors that an employer would need to consider, including, but not limited to:
- Safe Work Australia’s current advice that it is ‘unlikely that a requirement to be vaccinated will be reasonably practicable’ as a WHS measure to manage the risks of the COVID virus in the workplace, and the need for employers to continue to apply a range of COVID safe workplace measures, even where employees have been vaccinated;
- the Federal and State Government’s current policies not to mandate vaccinations at higher risk and/or more vulnerable workplace settings;
- the limited availability of the vaccines for many workplaces, including availability relating to age categories; and,
- an employee’s medical conditions.
There are also a number of matters to be considered where an employer intends to introduce a vaccination requirement for prospective employees, visitors, customers and others.