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Workplace Covid-19 Vaccinations – are they compulsory?

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With Australia’s vaccine roll out program underway there is genuine hope our community and economy can look forward to a return to more-normal operating conditions.

In the short term, there has been a lot of debate on whether the vaccine will be compulsory in the workplace, or not. To assist, the Federal Government has recently advised that:

  • The State and Federal Governments, via the National Cabinet, have agreed that vaccinations will not be compulsory for aged care workers. Given that they are not willing to make them compulsory for such a high-risk sector, it is unlikely that they would require them for other sectors, such as agriculture.
  • If the decision was to be made to make vaccines compulsory, it would be most likely enforced at the State level via a Public Health Order.
  • Without a Public Health Order, a vaccination can only be required by employers where it is provided for under an enterprise agreement or contract, or where alawful and reasonable direction to be vaccinated is given. However, given the current advice by government, it will not be easy to meet the threshold required for such a direction to be lawful and reasonable.
  • Safe Work Australia and the Fair Work Ombudsman are developing workplace guidance, including tailored support for small businesses, to help businesses and workers understand their rights and obligations in relation to vaccination under workplace laws.

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