Can Australian businesses make the COVID vaccine mandatory?

Can Australian businesses make the COVID vaccine mandatory
Posted on.
By Tiana Daly.

Mandatory COVID-19 vaccination in workplaces is making the news, particularly in light of the decision by SPC to require the vaccination of all of its onsite staff and visitors.

Several factors need to be considered to determine if an employer can require their staff to be vaccinated. The factors include:

  1. Are there any provisions in the relevant award, enterprise agreement or employment contract that address the issue?
  2. What is the nature of the work or industry? Currently there are a number of industries where it has been mandated that employees are vaccinated (as well as consultants or other attendees to relevant sites), and other industries where it could be suggested it is ‘reasonable’ to require vaccinations.
  3. Other factors such as medical status or religion which might prevent an employee from being vaccinated.

Employers should consider addressing these issues in their employment contracts when employing new staff and updating contracts. Employers should seek legal advice before implementing policies of compulsory vaccinations for all workers. While there is some precedent for mandating vaccination (such as occurred with the influenza vaccine in the childcare industry), if employers make vaccinations compulsory in circumstances where they have no contractual right or it is not reasonable to do so, they risk employees taking action against them.

If you require advice specific to your circumstances please contact our Workplace Law team.

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