The Employment Relations Authority has upheld an employee’s personal grievance claim of unjustified dismissal after he was fired for refusing to receive the COVID-19 vaccination.

The employer created a workplace policy during the pandemic which required all staff and members of the organisation to receive the vaccination before a certain date. This policy came after the government provided a vaccination mandate for all hospitality workers.

The employees were given the opportunity to provide feedback and alternatives to the policy, which the employer considered. The employer decided that the vaccine was necessary and did not offer any redeployment opportunities.

The employees were informed that their employment would be terminated if they did not receive the vaccine before the specified date. After refusing to get vaccinated, the employee was given four weeks’ notice of his dismissal.

The employee raised a personal grievance claim of unjustified dismissal with the Authority.

When dismissing an employee, an employer must act fairly and reasonably. This includes genuinely considering employee feedback and alternatives to dismissal.

During the dismissal process, the employer learnt that the government mandate only related to the areas of its business that involved food and beverage service. The employee was not employed in either of those areas.

The Authority decided that the employer failed to consider all alternatives after learning that the mandate only related to food and beverage service, merely relying on their new workplace policy. This failure was not what a reasonable employer would have done in the circumstances. The employer should have considered options other than dismissal of the employee.

The Authority ordered the employer to pay two months of lost wages, as well as $15,000 to the employee in compensation for humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to feelings.

There is an important process which must be followed when dismissing an employee. If you are confused about your obligations, it pays to seek advice from a professional with experience in the area.


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Alan Knowsley and Hunter Flanagan-Connors