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Requiring employees to be vaccinated

Hi Bare Bones Consulting, is there any laws on requiring employees to be vaccinated against coronavirus? 

In the current circumstances, the overwhelming majority of employers should assume that they can’t require their employees to be vaccinated against coronavirus.

While the Australian Government’s policy is that receiving a coronavirus vaccination is voluntary, it aims to have as many Australians vaccinated as possible.

There are limited circumstances where an employer may require their employees to be vaccinated. Whether an employer can require their employees to be vaccinated against coronavirus is highly fact dependent, taking account of the 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).

Further considerations may include whether employees have a legitimate reason for not being vaccinated (for example, a medical reason), and how protections for employees under anti-discrimination laws may apply.  

Employers should consider taking specific legal advice if:

  • they’re considering making coronavirus vaccinations mandatory in their workplace, or
  • they operate in a coronavirus high-risk environment (for example, health care or meat processing).

We’ve written about managing coronavirus and COVID-19 previously. The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) also has a dedicated online resource to assist employers and employees understand their rights and responsibilities at work during the impact of coronavirus, including additional information on requiring employees to be vaccinated. Check out the FWO Coronavirus and Australian workplace laws site here.

Got a HR situation you need solved quickly and painlessly? Give Bare Bones Consulting a call. We make things simple…no vaccination required!

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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.