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Directing employees to be vaccinated

Hi Bare Bones Consulting, what are our rights when it comes to directing employees to be vaccinated against coronavirus?

Great question citizen; I’m here typing the answer in lockdown right now. Visualise an old fat guy in PJ’s and you’ll understand why this is a scenario no-one deserves to see.

At this point in time there is no “across the board” right for an employer to direct an employee to be vaccinated.

There are however limited circumstances where an employer may require their employees to be vaccinated. These circumstances are highly dependent on the individual workplace and each employee’s circumstances. Relevant factors an employer should consider include:

  • whether a specific law (such as a state or territory public health law) requires an employee to be vaccinated
  • whether an enterprise agreement, other registered agreement or employment contract includes a provision about requiring vaccinations
  • if no law, agreement or employment contract applies that requires vaccination, whether it would be lawful and reasonable for an employer to give their employees a direction to be vaccinated (which is assessed on a case-by-case basis).

The Queensland Government has issued public health directions mandating coronavirus vaccination for some workers. The directions affect:

  • health service employees
  • Queensland Ambulance Service employees
  • hospital and health service contractors
  • Queensland Health employees in residential aged care facilities operated by Queensland Health (first dose by 16 September 2021).

If an employee refuses to be vaccinated (contrary to a specific law, agreement or contract that requires vaccination…or after receiving a clear and repeated lawful and reasonable direction), an employer should, as a first step, ask the employee to explain their reasons for refusing the vaccination.

If the employee has provided a legitimate reason for not being vaccinated – for example, the employee has an existing medical condition – the employee and their employer should consider whether there are any other options available instead of vaccination. This could include alternative work arrangements.

If you’re faced with a challenging situation directing employees to be vaccinated against coronavirus, why not give Bare Bones Consulting a call? We specialise in all things HR and can ensure each party receives the correct information about their rights and obligations so everyone can make informed decisions about what happens next. And that’s always a smart place to start.

Questions on how Bare Bones Consulting can help your business thrive in these tough times? Check out our FAQ page here.

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Note: Bare Bones Consulting provides HR services for employers. Employees seeking advice on workplace concerns should contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94.