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COVID vaccines at work: what you need to know

doctor administering vaccine
Can employer’s force employees to get vaccinated?

The “overwhelming majority” of employers should assume they have no power to force employees to vaccinate against COVID-19.

The Fair Work Ombudsman and Safe Work Australia has prepared guidance material that aims to be comprehensive; however, every workplace will be different. Safe Work Australia is proposing to provide industry-specific information guidance.

The requirement for workers to be vaccinated against certain transmittable diseases is not new. Where there is health advice that there is an operational requirement for inoculations only those workers who are vaccinated would be able to access those sites/locations. We are also seeing vaccination requirements as health directives by State governments.

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These sorts of requirements operate for nurses who are required to get the flu vaccine every year.

It is an individual’s choice on whether they wish to be vaccinated, however for employers, the requirement to be vaccinated is rapidly forming an inherent/core requirement of the worker’s role. Without the vaccination the worker may not have the capacity to be deployed to particular sites.

The flow-on consideration is, what capacity does the employer have to deploy this worker given the number or types of sites that they have been excluded from?

Can the worker still meet the ‘inherent requirements of the role’? Like if a worker suddenly lost their electrical licence and couldn’t get it back. An electrician wouldn’t be able to perform their role any longer.

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner has released a new COVID-19 Vaccinations privacy guidance for employers.  This complements the COVID-19 Guidance for employers.  In addition, the MEA Employer Advice team can assist and help you navigate this topic.

MEA recommends that in any situation where dismissal is being considered that this should only occur after a lengthy and measured process of assessing:
  1. The ability of the client to mandate the vaccination for their site,
  2. The reasons for the worker’s decision not to take up the vaccination – may include a genuine medical exemption and evidence can be requested,
  3. The volume of work that this work represents for the business,
  4. The impact on their capacity to be deployed,
  5. What deployment options exist, and does the employer have an obligation to make reasonable adjustments for this worker because of a medical condition or other discriminatory attribute,
  6. Most critically the usual process of putting those matters to the worker for their response and consideration.

Master Electricians have unlimited access to the Employer Advice Team. A free service, one of the many benefits of being a Master Electrician. Call 1300 889 198.

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