No jab, no job: Mandating vaccinations in the workplace in Australia
Workplaces across Australia are now requiring their employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19. Are you unsure whether your workplace is allowed to make vaccinations compulsory, and what the consequences might be if you refuse to get vaccinated?
Explore this guide to find out your rights where your employer is imposing a mandatory vaccination for COVID-19.
Are COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory in the workplace?
The answer is yes, in certain circumstances. If your workplace is making COVID-19 vaccinations compulsory, your employer may be entitled to do so if the request is based on:
- A specific law or public health order: Laws and policies on mandatory vaccination differ from state to state – for example, in NSW there are specific public health orders requiring health care, aged care and education workers to be vaccinated.
- Your workplace’s enterprise agreement or your employment contract: You will need to check the terms of these documents specifically in relation to your workplace.
- Where your employer’s request can be considered ‘lawful and reasonable’: To be ‘lawful’, it will need to be mandated by one of the previous two categories, and whether the mandate is ‘reasonable’ will depend on the specific circumstances of your workplace and your job. These include whether your role is public-facing, the risk of COVID-19 transmission in your workplace, the specific requirements of your job etc.
If you think your workplace’s vaccination policy does not fall into one of these categories, give us a call on 1800 592 404.
Can an employee refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in Australia?
You may refuse a workplace vaccination mandate if you have a ‘legitimate’ reason not to be vaccinated, such as a medical exemption. Your employer is allowed to request evidence of the reason for your refusal and should negotiate alternative work arrangements to accommodate your refusal (such as working from home or reducing your risk of COVID-19 transmission by performing different duties).
In NSW there are new vaccination laws being introduced that will make your employer liable for any ill effects caused by a COVID-19 vaccination you were required to get as a result of a workplace mandate.
Can an employer take disciplinary action if an employee refuses a vaccination?
Where your refusal is not considered legitimate and goes against your employer’s ‘lawful and reasonable’ request to be vaccinated, your employer can take disciplinary action. The steps your employer could take will depend on the specifics of your role, the terms of your employment contract and your workplace’s enterprise agreement and policies.
If you cannot work as a result of refusing a COVID-19 vaccination mandated by a public health order, your employer does not have to pay you unless your employer agrees to let you take paid leave.
Your employer does have the right to terminate your employment, however, they must comply with any awards, enterprise agreements, employment contracts, or workplace policies. Your employer should discuss possible alternative work arrangements with you before taking such action.
Can an employer collect information on your vaccination status in Australia?
If your workplace’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate is lawful and reasonable, you are required to provide your employer with the reason for refusing to be vaccinated or your medical exemption, if you have one.
Your vaccination status is sensitive information that is protected under privacy laws. Generally, your employer must get your consent to collect your vaccination status information and must show that your vaccination status is necessary for the duties of your role and workplace.
However, where the collection of your COVID-19 vaccination status is required by law, such as a public health order, your employer does not need your consent to collect your vaccination status.
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