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Vaccinations at work: to jab or not to jab?

An employer’s obligation to provide vaccinations at work to employees falls into two categories:

  1. Must do
  2. Smart to do

Let’s check out the legal side to start.

The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (the WHS Act) provides a framework to protect the health, safety and welfare of all employees at work. It also protects the health and safety of all other people who might be affected by the work.

All workers are protected by the WHS Act, including employees, contractors and subcontractors, outworkers, apprentices and trainees, work experience students and volunteers.

The WHS Act also provides protection for the general public so that their health and safety is not placed at risk by work activities.

Must do: when an employer has an obligation to vaccinate workers

The WHS Act places the primary health and safety duty on a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU). The PCBU must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers at the workplace.

Part of the PCBU’s responsibility under the WH&S Act is to conduct a risk assessment to identify whether employees might have exposure risk to infectious diseases in the workplace. Should the risk assessment show that their workers are at risk of acquiring a vaccine-preventable disease, the PCBU has a health and safety obligation to implement an occupational immunisation program for these employees.

Certain occupations are associated with an increased risk of exposure to some vaccine preventable diseases. Such occupations include:

  • healthcare workers
  • people who work in childhood education and care
  • carers
  • laboratory workers
  • people who work with animals
  • people exposed to human tissue, blood, body fluids or sewage

Information on vaccinations recommended for occupational groups can found in the Australian Immunisation Handbook.

Smart to do: when an employer should offer vaccinations to workers

The annual cost to Australian companies in lost time due to cold and flu is more than seven billion dollars. In 2017, over 200,000 people suffered from the illness throughout the year.

While there’s currently no legal obligation for an employer to offer flu vaccinations at work, research has shown that healthy employees vaccinated against flu take nearly half the number of sick days and have nearly half the number of doctor’s visits compared to unvaccinated workers.

Offering flu vaccinations to staff demonstrates the organisation cares about employee health and wellbeing. Any benefit adding to team morale also increases employee engagement, staff retention and attracts talent: smart business sense, right?

Bare Bones Consulting specialises in all things HR. We can provide assistance when it comes to the must do’s, should do’s and nice to do’s in any employment situation. Like whether you need to offer vaccinations at work. Having such an expertise resource at your disposal is smart too. Check out our Case Study page to see how being smart translates into dollars for your business.

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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.