Vaccine Mandates in workplaces – is it allowed?

With the government slowly trying to reopen society, there is a lot of conversation around the status of vaccinations for employees. There is no easy answer to the topic of how prescriptive businesses can be about vaccinations in their workplaces.

Smart company put up a survey asking 5,000 people on LinkedIn the following question:

“Should Australian employers now mandate staff to take a vaccine as a condition of returning to work?”

Here were the results:

  • 47% of respondents said they felt safer knowing an employer would mandate a vaccine for return-to-work; 
  • 36% were opposed to the idea of mandating vaccines; and
  • 15% said it depended on the industry.

The current guidelines state that employers can require staff to get vaccinated in specific circumstances, for example if the workplace exposes employees to a higher risk of being exposed to the virus, or where there is a state public health order in place. 

However, there are some businesses outside of these circumstances that are mandating vaccinations for employees, such as13Cabs, SPC and major airline, Qantas. However, employers can only ask for vaccination details from employees if they meet Fair Work’s current guidelines.

Under Fair Work’s guidelines, a vaccination mandate is ‘lawful and reasonable’ if it is linked to a public health order, or has been requested in a business that involves a lot of face-to-face interaction. In such instances, employers will be able to request the vaccination status of existing and newly recruited employees. 

Here are some of the trends that are emerging relating to the vaccination in work places, according to Smart Company:

  1. There has been an increasing number of job seekers that have their vaccine status – including the type of brand and number of doses listed on their resumes. Some employers do not pay much attention to them, however, some employers are taking it to show proactiveness on the part of the employee, by doing what’s best for the community according to the current health guidelines. 
  2. Remote work has been adopted by most businesses. However, while larger businesses have successfully implemented work from home regimes, smaller businesses are still struggling to cope. And therefore may require employees to come into the office when society opens up, meaning that there may be a higher risk of infection, and therefore, could give reason for a vaccine mandate. 
  3. Their is a strong job market, with expectations of talent shortages getting worse in the next 12 months, Many job seekers are looking for new roles, and people are considering make career changes next year once we are opening up again.  

While there is still a lot of unanswered question about what best practice will be for managing vaccines in the workplace, the best approach for now, is to make sure you are following the Fair Work and public health guidelines and are also aware of the anti-discrimination laws.

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