Commercial & Business, Employment & Health and Safety, Insights, Law Changes

You May Need to Reconsider Vaccine Mandates

Following the imposition of changes to the COVID-19 Protection Framework made on April 4, which included changes to the vaccination requirement regime, the Government has now released new guidance on how private businesses should manage vaccination requirements going forward.

As of April 4, Government vaccination requirements for the education sector, the Police and the Defence Force have all been removed. However, the mandates remain for workers in health and disability, aged care, corrections, MIQ and border sectors.

The Government has changed the guidance for how to carry out health and safety ‘risk assessments’, which private businesses must do in order to determine if vaccines are required in their workplaces. It will now be much more difficult to impose vaccine mandates and continue to justify existing mandates.

The way that the risk of Covid-19 in the workplace should be assessed has changed significantly. Risk assessments should be treated as living documents and be reviewed regularly according to the most up to date guidance.

Employers must first ask if there is a greater risk of the worker contracting Covid-19 in the workplace than in the community. If so, the employer may still be able to justify a vaccine mandate, but only on the basis of certain other considerations. These are:

  • Does the worker regularly, as part of their work, interact with people who are at greater risk of severe illness should they attract Covid-19?
  • Does the worker require regular interactions with people who are less likely to be vaccinated against Covid-19?
  • Does the worker work in a confined indoor space of less than 100m2 and involve close and sustained interactions with others (i.e. within 1.5 metres distance for more than 15 continuous minutes)?

Employers should also continue to consider whether the risk of Covid-19 can be mitigated by other factors such as masks, rapid antigen testing and physical distancing which will enable them to satisfy their obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.

WorkSafe has stated that they consider that few workplaces will be able to justify individual vaccination requirements for health and safety reasons.

If you require staff to be vaccinated on the reliance of a risk assessment, it is highly advisable to review the risk assessment in the light of the new guidance to determine if it the mandate can still be justified. If you would like assistance or advice in navigating the new vaccination regime, please contact us.