Since the COVID-19 vaccines have been rolled out in Australia, there has been wide public debate about the safety and efficacy of the jab. In light of substantial vaccine hesitancy after some well-reported side effects, employers might be wondering if they can mandate the COVID vaccine for their workforce.
In practice, employers can generally not force this obligation on their staff, unless they are working in particularly high-risk industries such as frontline medical services. The rationale here being that, if employees are not vaccinated, they are extremely exposed and at high risk of contracting COVID-19.
Employers should also consider whether there are any public health orders in force in their state. Currently, Queensland and Western Australia have orders in place that require certain frontline workers to be vaccinated. Compliance with these directives is a fair and reasonable request from an employer.
What about employees working in other industries?
It is, however, understandable that employers outside high-risk sectors would seek to limit the risk of staff contracting COVID-19 for a variety of reasons, including absenteeism and general economic reasons. Employers wishing to require all staff to be vaccinated must consider whether this falls into ‘fair and reasonable’ action, and whether such a requirement is permitted under employees’ contractual obligations.
If you are not sure whether you can require your employees to undergo a COVID vaccination, contact Pentana Stanton today for expert advice on your rights and obligations.