The jab-dilemma: complying with government directives

21 September 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic is raising several legal, moral and ethical dilemmas for governments, businesses and individuals to deal with.

Now, following a violent protest outside the headquarters of a major employee union, the Victorian State Government has effectively put a stop to construction work in several Victorian Local Government Areas for two weeks. The stop has been put in place to allow construction workers to obtain vaccines before returning to their respective sites. Some of these affected workers were protesting the State Government’s directions, which they felt were heavy handed as they included closing tea rooms and mandating that they be either vaccinated with one dose by 24 September 2021 or show evidence of a booking for a vaccination before 2 October 2021.

Our specialist employment lawyers have put together a few quick tips to consider as you grapple with these issues in your business:

Complying with Government Directives regarding mandatory vaccinations

If there is a government directive applying to your industry, whether that is imposed by the Federal, State or Territory Government, you are obliged to comply with it. In view of that, you may issue directions in your workplace that require employees to be vaccinated before they can return to work.

If employees refuse to comply with the direction without a lawful excuse (a medical exemption, for example), then this may allow you to take disciplinary action against those employees. It can be tricky, so we recommend you seek advice around the form of your directive and managing employees who do not want to comply (or are unable to comply).

There is no Government Directive for my industry, but we would like to enforce vaccination in our workplace

The absence of a government directive does not necessarily change your rights to issue a direction for employees to get vaccinated before returning to work. Similar principles apply as those discussed above, however there may be more exposure for you, should a worker suffer an adverse reaction to a vaccine.

To mitigate this, the Federal government has introduced a No Fault COVID-19 Indemnity Scheme that indemnifies you from claims of this nature that are worth over $5,000.00.

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