Despite the end to most pandemic-era health restrictions, employers in key industries in Australia will still have the power to require the COVID vaccination among their employees.
But whether these rules will serve as blanket policies moving forward will depend on the nature of their business or industry, workplace experts said.
Australian media have confirmed a number of the country’s biggest employers will retain their vaccination rules regardless of government policy. These include supermarkets and banks, businesses that rely heavily on customer-facing staff.
While it appears reasonable and lawful for certain industries, such as health care, to continue with their vaccine mandate for workers, other low-risk sectors may find themselves dealing with the backlash if they require vaccination in the absence of public health orders.
Earlier this month, Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton recommended the state soon scale back its COVID-related health mandates for industries that face a lower likelihood of COVID transmission. For workplaces that do require the jab, Sutton advised the matter be left “at the discretion of industry and individual workplaces”.
High-risk vs low-risk sectors
Employee rights’ watchdog JobWatch, however, noted that several employers have already been forced to settle unfair dismissal complaints related to vaccine mandates.
“It would certainly be interesting to see how this plays out in the future if, for instance, an office worker in a lower-risk business was to challenge a vaccine mandate in their office,” said Zana Bytheway, executive director of JobWatch, as reported by The Age.
For Michael Tooma of the law firm Clyde & Co, relaxing public health and safety protocols won’t exactly mean the end of vaccination requirements for workers.
“Vaccination will remain an effective control against the spread of the virus in workplaces where there is a higher risk of transmission,” Tooma said, as cited by The Guardian.
Again, action can be taken on a case-by-case basis. Employers will therefore have to remain vigilant and monitor their own requirements.
“For businesses that have a high customer interaction, businesses that have high density in their enclosed workplace or low ventilation, or businesses that have dealings with vulnerable communities – aged care, childcare and immune compromised people – maintained vaccination is one of the controls you would need to have,” Tooma said.