Can an employer require mandatory Covid-19 vaccination?

By sylviahammond, 29 June, 2021

Older members will know before I was consumed with skills development, I was an industrial relations person, and there have been a few things lately that are reminding and that I want to discuss - so this post is in Industrial Relations, rather than Covid-19, but that is the background.

Social media sites have been consumed with the question - can an employer make it mandatory for all employees to have a vaccination?

There are other vaccinations that have been mandatory for travel to certain countries, and in my youth we all had polio vaccinations. Smallpox was eliminated internationally through vaccine programmes, and measles recently made a come-back because people were reluctant to vaccinate. There's lots of background - Covid-19 vaccination is not unique.

But in the workplace can you make it mandatory? Yes. But.
The employer would need to identify which employees, or which workplace section - the question will be why? It needs to be identified rationally - and in terms of the risk assessment - and the OHS plan.

It needs to be done in conjunction with - and probably by - the Occupational Health and Safety Committee, with communication to employees on who, where, and why. If there is a union, they should be represented on that committee.

Then if there are objections on religious, or health grounds, how will you deal with that? Please read the last section third Annexure. It is possible that an employee can have a genuine health ground, for example. So, in those cases how will you accommodate those employees? What changes can you make to ensure that they remain employed?

You can see that this is going to require a great deal of consultation time, and have employees feeling insecure and uncertain, and resentful.

If it is not really essential, a much better approach would be to run workshops to educate employees.
I would suggest a plan as follows:
* first ask who is on social media, and
* ask them to bring in copies of what they have seen about vaccinations on social media.
That will give you the content for your training programmes.
Educate, and motivate, and advocate.


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