Australian employment law and vaccinations in the workplace
What is Australia’s workplace immunisation policy?
COVID-19 has made its way around the world, causing immunisation policies and requirements to change rapidly and drastically. Any business that wants to hire staff in Australia needs to have an idea of the workplace immunisation policy or work with a PEO that understands the requirements.
Is there a workplace immunisation policy in Australia?
As of December 1, 2021, 87% of eligible Australians over the age of 16 have been double vaccinated, with the number still rising. That means that if you are looking to hire in Australia, you have high odds of applicants already being fully vaccinated.
At this stage, there is no blanket government requirement stating that anyone must be fully vaccinated in order to hold a job. The decision is down to the discretion of the individual employers, with the exception of certain industries.
These exceptions vary from state to state (with Western Australia having by far the longest list) but in general, workers involved in the healthcare industry, aged care facility workers, and educators are required to be vaccinated.
Here is an example of vaccination requirements for workers as set by the government in the Australian state of New South Wales. You will see that vaccination rules apply to staff working at certain businesses.
Can you force an employee to be vaccinated?
The short answer is, outside of certain professions, no.
The Australian Fair Workplace Ombudsman advises working with your employees to make it easier for them to get vaccinated. This means allowing for paid time off for vaccinations and provided up to date educational materials in relation to vaccines. The ombudsman also advises providing alternative working arrangements for any employee who can’t get vaccinated because of lack of access to vaccines or valid medical reasons.
Employers do have the right to ask their employees why they don’t want to get vaccinated. If the staff member can provide legitimate medical reasons for not being vaccinated, then the employer must respect their decision.
If the employee cannot provide a suitable reason for not being vaccinated against COVID-19, the ombudsman advises talking to the employee and working towards a compromise. Educating an employee about the safety and efficacy of vaccinations may solve the problem.
In extreme cases, if an employee decides not to get vaccinated, an employer might have the right to take disciplinary action. This will come down to the specific laws applicable as well as the worker’s award and contractual agreements.
The ombudsman states that it is very unlikely that an employer will have the power to stand down an employee who is not vaccinated if they work in an industry where vaccines are not mandated. Ultimately, any action can only be evaluated on a case by case basis.
Why you need a workplace immunisation policy when you’re building your team
If you have the luxury of building a new team then you can avoid many of the complications around vaccinations. If you include a workplace immunisation policy right from the beginning, your staff will know where your business stands in terms of vaccinations.
A policy like this will help to identify any potential employees who are reluctant to get vaccinated and those who are joining the team will understand what is required of them from the start.
Hire workers in Australia
Many qualified people are searching for work after the disruption of the pandemic. If you start your recruitment process with a clear immunisation policy, there is no reason you will have any trouble finding a skilled and reliable team.
Want to know more about building a team in Australia and implementing a workplace immunisation policy that is compliant with local legislation? Contact APEO today.
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