Can employers make the COVID vaccine obligatory for workers?
The COVID vaccine may be prescribed for workers by employers to ensure a safe and healthy workplace. Find out more here.
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COVID-19 has sparked a year of unprecedented developments in the legal industry. This has raised concerns about labor laws, employment rights and privacy rights. However, the commitment to the COVID vaccine seems a bit clearer. Relevant cases by the Fair Work Commission give us some pointers on how to deal with employee resistance to vaccinations.
Current guidelines state that employers have the right to manage employees in a “lawful and reasonable” manner. Employers also have a responsibility to create a safe work environment, leading many employers to instruct workers to work from home by 2020 (and 2021). In the current COVID climate, a safe workplace can well include a vaccinated workplace. As a result, employers may have the right to instruct workers to vaccinate themselves for job security. However, a vaccinated workplace as a safe workplace depends on the type of workplace / customer / employee – a strict legal answer is almost impossible.
What we know about the vaccine being mandatory so far
One case by the Fair Work Commission 2020 regarding termination of employment following employee refusal to receive the flu vaccine is particularly relevant. The rejected case provides good legal guidance on how these claims can be handled in the COVID landscape. Most importantly, compulsory vaccination should be lawful and appropriate when the staff’s main operations are related to child care.
This is based on the rationale that children under a certain age do not need or are not allowed to have certain vaccines. There may also be legitimate health concerns that make vaccination impossible. As a result, the responsibility rests with the employer to ensure that employees interacting with customers can protect themselves and the children. This may well extend to similar areas such as elderly care, healthcare, and even the education industry. The severity, high infection and death rate of COVID compared to the flu make it even more likely that mandatory vaccines for jobs will appear during its introduction.
Not sure if your workplace could be affected? Please contact one of our lawyers here.
If the vaccine is mandatory, what are the valid reasons for refusal?
If vaccination is required in the workplace, there are valid reasons for refusal. Certain reasons for rejection, such as: B. Illnesses or possible medical effects, extend across all jobs. These medical exemptions are protected by the Disability Discrimination Act, which requires appropriate adjustments for specific individuals.
Rejection for moral or ethical reasons is more controversial. Ultimately, it likely depends on your job. For more security, however, contact one of our lawyers to advise you.
Please visit our COVID-19 resources page for legal documents, information and the latest updates.
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3 things to keep in mind when commissioning the vaccine for your workplace
If you are an entrepreneur or workplace manager and you plan to contract the vaccine, here are some things to keep in mind:
1. Communicate with your employees
Inform your employees about the vaccination discussions and your responsibility as an employer. It is important to ensure that they are aware of their shared responsibility for a safe work environment. This way, you’ll remove a dictator-style stigma in the workplace.
2. Allow your co-workers to express their concerns to you and try to find a way to resolve them
Vaccination is a controversial area with many different opinions. Allowing your co-workers to express their concerns to you will make them feel heard and valued instead of just following instructions. You may be able to work together to resolve the problem. Employees may be able to work from home or change their roles slightly.
3. Be discreet
In an area like this, it’s important to make sure that the preferences / opinions of the employees are maintained between you and them. Discussions in the workplace about the position of certain employees on the subject can lead to workplace bullying or harassment. Vaccinations are a personal matter, so discretion must come first.
What to expect
Vaccinations may be launched in Australia as early as February this year, which means this topic is incredibly relevant. However, we may have to wait for the results of the Fair Work Commission on flu vaccine cases to make further direct workplace decisions on this matter. Or rather, what guidelines will be introduced along with the vaccine. Contact one of our lawyers for more information or clarification on the issues raised in this article.