by | Mar 31, 2022

Vaccination Mandates – what does it mean for your business?

If your business chose to mandate vaccination for your workers and you are not in a sector that was covered by the Government’s vaccination mandates, then you need to read this.

Worksafe have provided guidelines for businesses and recommend that all businesses review their current vaccination policy.

A key point is this:

The public health justification for requiring vaccination is stronger when the risk of contracting and transmitting COVID-19 at work is higher than it is in the community. 

Therefore, for each role the requirement is that employers assess the risk for that role, using the following questions:

  • Is there a greater risk of the worker being exposed to new variants at work than they would be in the community?
  • Does the worker regularly, as part of their work, interact with people who are at greater risk of severe illness should they contract COVID-19?
  • Does the worker regularly interact with people who are less likely to be vaccinated against COVID-19?
  • Does the worker work in a confined indoor space (of less than 100m2) and involve close and sustained interactions with others (i.e. closer than 1m distance, for periods of more than 15 continuous minutes)?

These questions are considered just the starting point for employers. Employers may also consider other risk factors that are relevant and justifiable in respect of their workplace(s).

In deciding what controls to implement, employers will need to consider what is reasonably practicable. Employers should first consider the controls that are least intrusive to employees. Examples of controls that should be considered before requiring vaccination and that work well in most workplaces are:

  • supporting workers to stay at home when sick
  • requiring mask use in some indoor settings
  • improving ventilation in the workplace
  • physical distancing
  • testing and basic hygiene practices
  • reorganising work, for example working from home
  • requiring certain tasks be undertaken by workers who are already vaccinated
  • moving to providing some services virtually rearranging the work environment and the way that it is used so that physical distancing is possible and extended close contact with other people is minimised.

WorkSafe considers that few workplaces will be able to justify an employer vaccination requirement for health and safety or public health reasons. For those who can, this would likely be only for specific roles.

What about using My Vaccine Passes as a condition of entry for visitors to the workplace?

Most businesses can limit access to their premise to vaccinated people only, including requiring that My Vaccine Passes as a condition of entry.  If your business had based access conditions on these grounds, the recommendation is that you review those conditions to reflect updated public health advice.

Businesses can still require My Vaccine Passes for access, as long as:

  • It doesn’t breach any contractual restrictions (for example in a lease or under a franchise agreement)
  • It doesn’t breach any law, such as the COVID-19 Protection Framework (which prohibits certain places requiring My Vaccine Passes, like supermarkets or pharmacies) or the Human Rights Act.

Access conditions are a business decision, and businesses do not need any further justification. Businesses may, however, choose to share their reasons for requiring vaccination, for example, where this is for consistency with a work health and safety risk assessment.

There is, however, no obligation for a business to undertake a health and safety risk assessment or point to a public health basis for the access conditions that they set.

The exception to this is for workers or employees, where a business’ decision must:

  • be supported by a work health and safety risk assessment
  • reflect a third-party access requirement.

If you have any more questions or concerns regarding these guidelines, get in touch with POD today we are here to help!

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