Workplace vaccinations

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22nd February, 2021

COVID-19 vaccinations in the workplace: what you need to know

Can workers be forced to take a vaccination? New COVID-19 guidelines for employees and employers covers this question and more.

As the COVID-19 vaccine begins to roll out across Australia, it’s important that both employers and employees know their rights and responsibilities when it comes to getting immunised.

Unsurprisingly, industries that are in contact with those most vulnerable to the virus will be first to get the vaccine. This includes those working in aged care and disability care, frontline healthcare workers, and quarantine and border workers.

Key takeaways for employers:

  • In the vast majority of cases, employers cannot require their employees receive the vaccination
  • In most scenarios, an employer can require a new employee to be vaccinated
  • It’s unlikely that an employee could refuse to attend their workplace because another employee isn’t vaccinated

But according to the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website, the vast majority of employers will not be able to require their employees to get a vaccine injection.

This is because the Australian Government’s policy is that the vaccine is voluntary, and there are no current public health orders or laws that enable employers to require employees be vaccinated.

There are a small a set of circumstances where an employer can require that their employees be vaccinated. But this needs to take into account the individual employee, their industry, and the specific workplace.

If an employee refuses to be vaccinated, it’s possible that – should negotiations, other options and alternative working agreements fail – disciplinary action could be taken against them.

Employers are also allowed to ask for evidence of an employee’s vaccination, as long as they’ve been provided with a lawful and reasonable direction to be vaccinated.

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If you’re looking for specific information on your industry and the COVID-19 rollout, visit the Safe Work Australia website and the Fair Work Ombudsman website.