The Government has announced that once the Covid-19 vaccine mandate comes into force, employees in certain roles will be required (under the mandate) to be vaccinated. Should they fail to be vaccinated, they can lose their job.

Employers not specifically covered by the mandate

However, the Government will also require employers to carry out risk assessments in order to determine which of their employees are required to be vaccinated. The guidelines for this process have not yet been released, but will likely be similar to the guidance already available from Worksafe.

If an employer carries out the risk assessment, it may decide that an employee is required to be vaccinated. We already know that this is likely to apply to employees who have client/customer facing roles.

What if the employee decides that they don’t want to get vaccinated?

It is important to remember, even if an employer determines that an employee is required to be vaccinated, and the employee refuses, the employer should not unilaterally terminate their employment.

It is important to remember that good faith considerations still apply. This means that before an employer decides to terminate the employee, there must be discussions and considerations about what alternatives are available.

This may include whether the employee can, by agreement, be moved into a role that would not require them under the risk assessment to be vaccinated.

Can employees be encouraged to get vaccinated?

The Government has already announced that unvaccinated individuals will be limited in what they can do in their everyday lives. There has also been an announcement that employers will have to provide employees paid time off to receive their vaccinations.

However, employers are free to offer further incentives to employees in order to get vaccinated (remuneration or otherwise). It is wise for employers to consider whether these benefits should also extend to employees that have already received their vaccinations.

Employers cannot however penalise employees by way of reducing their pay or unilaterally changing their contractual hours of work. This is likely to lead to an expensive personal grievance.

Risks of keeping details of vaccination statuses as part of risk assessment

Given that employers will be required to keep a record of their employee’s vaccination status, it is wise that they take steps to ensure that this information is stored securely. Further information on secure storage of employee’s vaccination is available here. If other employees are able to obtain information of other employees’ vaccination statuses, this may result in a notifiable privacy breach, bullying, and health and safety issues for the employer to deal with.

Although there are significant new employment requirements being imposed on employers (and thereby employees), it will be important to always follow a proper process in carrying out risk assessments and considering whether an employee declining vaccination must be given notice to end their employment.

If there are concerns about how these new requirements may impact you or your business, it is wise to speak with a professional experienced in the area.



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