Wednesday 03 November 2021
Heading into 2022, every business is facing new questions and challenges regarding workplace vaccination policies and how this relates to the rights and responsibilities of the company and its staff.
Here’s what you need to know if you’re a Queensland business considering making COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for your employees.
Our current understanding is that employee vaccination rules can either be mandated by an industry (aged care), profession (surgeons) or some other government order (State or Federal).
With respect to independent workplaces where there are currently no orders in place, vaccination is considered a workplace health and safety issue.
Safe Work Australia have advised the following:
Employers have a duty under the model Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws to eliminate, or if that is not reasonably practicable, minimise the risks of COVID-19 in the workplace so far as is reasonably practicable.
Employers also have a duty to consult workers regarding COVID-19 risks and how these risks are to be managed. This includes the introduction of workplace policies relating to vaccination.
The introduction of COVID-19 vaccines does not automatically mean businesses need to require workers to be vaccinated to meet their WHS duties.
Whether a requirement for workers to be vaccinated is reasonably practicable will depend on the circumstances of your particular workplace and your workers at the time you undertake your risk assessment.
Therefore, you have a duty of care as employers to keep vaccinated and unvaccinated staff (and potentially clients) safe.
We anticipate that we are heading into some challenging times from the 17th of December 2021. This is when we can expect the Queensland State Government to release information on rules and mandates for unvaccinated people.
There are likely to be a lot of issues regarding the ability of unvaccinated employees to perform the functions of their roles due to laws or company policies. Employers will need to make a plan to deal with the various situations that may arise as a result of this.
From an employment law perspective, we need to consider whether an unvaccinated employee can make an unfair dismissal claim if an employer has terminated their employment due to safety reasons.
From an insurance perspective, we need to consider the potential implications of an unvaccinated employee passing COVID-19 to someone who becomes ill or dies.
This is a complex issue inclusive of workplace relations, discrimination and privacy concerns. It is also one which we understand everyone will have a personal view.
We recommend employers take a cohesive and coordinated approach to developing and implementing a workplace vaccination policy.
This involves discussing the risks, strategy and process moving forward, as well as consulting employees prior to making any changes. You may also wish to seek legal advice and our assistance if required.
Our experienced HR consultants are following developments of this fast-moving situation closely, so please don’t hesitate to contact us for tailored advice.