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Business warned on COVID vaccine policy backlash

By Reporter
  • March 30 2021
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Invest

Business warned on COVID vaccine policy backlash

By Reporter
March 30 2021

Businesses that pressure staff into getting a COVID-19 vaccine are being warned they could face discrimination, harassment, bullying and employment abuse claims, according to an industry expert. 

Business warned on COVID vaccine policy backlash

Business warned on COVID vaccine policy backlash

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By Reporter
  • March 30 2021
  • Share

Businesses that pressure staff into getting a COVID-19 vaccine are being warned they could face discrimination, harassment, bullying and employment abuse claims, according to an industry expert. 

Business warned on COVID vaccine policy backlash

As more than 410,000 doses of the AstraZeneca and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines have been administered throughout Australia, staff are being reminded to know their rights when it comes to vaccinations. 

Maureen Kyne from Maureen Kyne & Associates has warned businesses to tread carefully on vaccination stances, because what may seem a reasonable health and safety precaution could backfire on them.

“Whether you can ask your employees to get vaccinated will depend on whether it’s a reasonable request to make in the context of your business,” she says. 

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“There’s an obvious difference between asking an aged care or quarantine worker to get vaccinated, compared with someone who works by themselves or remotely.”

According to Ms Kyne, businesses should communicate with the workforce to create a less fractured working environment.

“Workers want to know where they stand on your strategy, and if they refuse the vaccine, will their job be safe,” she explained.

“There is no one size fits all especially given the varying levels of risk of infection spread in different industries and workplaces.”

4 risk points to be addressed in drafting your vaccination policy:

  • Workplace health and safety: Employers have a duty under Work Health and Safety laws to provide a safe workplace and this includes minimising the risk of exposure to COVID-19. Ms Kyne says where the risk of infection to others outweighs an individual’s freedom of choice to be vaccinated, this must be addressed in the corporate vaccine plan. She says companies also have a responsibility to employees who have been working remotely that they feel secure about returning to work in a safe environment.
  • Mandate or educate: Issues regarding vaccination will be specific to each employer’s circumstances, their business sector and the individual circumstances of their employees.  Employers are entitled to promote the benefits of vaccination and suggest that staff are vaccinated, but if an employee refuses, great care needs to be taken to avoid potential discrimination claims. 
  • Communication: Talking to your employees will help them understand your commitment to operating a COVID-safe workplace and remaining open for business. Ms Kyne says a highly vaccinated workplace will make it a safer environment for workers, customers and clients.
  • Positive office culture: A vaccinated workplace is more likely to create trust and loyalty and boost employee morale and productivity, while an under-vaccinated business may pose an HR risk with individuals complaining they are forced to work alongside employees who are not vaccinated and don’t feel comfortable returning to work. Ms Kyne says depending on the nature of the business, an HR policy that allows unvaccinated employees to continue working from home should be considered.
Business warned on COVID vaccine policy backlash
Business warned on COVID vaccine policy backlash
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