Workplace safety must be the priority in vaccine mandate
9th Aug 2021
Mandating COVID-19 vaccinations in some workplaces, when vaccines are readily available, is not unreasonable, says the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).
“Protecting employees from disease and keeping them safe must be the priority for employers,” said Graham Droppert SC, National President, ALA. “All employers have a legal responsibility to keep their employees safe at work so mandating COVID-19 vaccinations in some workplaces is appropriate.
“Employers can already mandate certain health and safety measures such as protective equipment and operating methods to ensure the safety of their staff.
“However, access to the vaccine is obviously essential before employers can consider making vaccination mandatory. There also needs to be consideration of the risks at each individual workplace and consultation with the workforce and their unions before a new policy is introduced.
“Similar to other vaccination policies already in place in Australia, it may also be appropriate for some exemptions to apply. For example, where there are medical reasons that an employee cannot be vaccinated, then an exemption is appropriate. In those cases, the employer has a duty to implement other risk mitigation measures to ensure the safety and health of all employees in the workplace and income support for workers may also be required.
“The public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic has required limitations on our individual freedoms for the benefit of the broader community. The question of vaccination in the workplace again asks us to balance competing rights, but the right to life and the right of an individual to protect their health at work must be the priority.”