COVID-19 Vaccine Roll-Out

Public news

The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) and Safe Work Australia (SWA) have released updated guidance for employers and employees about the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in the workplace.

As a guiding principle, both the FWO and SWA have stressed that the overwhelming majority of employers should assume they will not be able to require their employees to be vaccinated.

Similarly, it is unlikely in the majority of circumstances that employees could refuse to come to work because, for instance, a colleague had not been vaccinated.

That said, employers should be aware of any public health orders that may have been issued by relevant state and territory government health agencies that could require certain workers to be vaccinated in some high-risk industries.

"The latest guidance provided by the FWO and SWA reinforces the Federal Government's broader vaccine policy that vaccination should be voluntary," Attorney-General and Minister for Industrial Relations, Christian Porter, said.

"As the Prime Minister has said many times, the Government expects that the overwhelming majority of Australians will want to be vaccinated to protect themselves and their loved ones, and so they can get on with their lives without disruption."

The guidance was developed after a series of roundtable meetings with employers and unions.

While it aims to be comprehensive, every workplace will be different and anyone still unsure about their obligations is urged to seek independent advice.

The guidance from the FWO and SWA can be viewed on their agency websites.

Members should remember that, while they cannot compel vaccination, they remain obliged to ensure that the workplace is safe, so far as is reasonably practicable, for workers and the public, including safe from risk of disease such as COVID-19.

"A safe and effective vaccine will only be one part of keeping the community safe and healthy. This means you must continue to apply other COVID-19 control measures such as physical distancing, good hygiene and regular cleaning and maintenance even if your workforce is vaccinated," SWA reminded businesses.