Mandatory vaccinations in the worplace

It is every employer’s duty to provide a safe workplace under the current Occupational Safety and Health legislation. With the spread of the Delta strain of Covid-19 in NSW and the decision by companies such as SPC and Qantas to mandate vaccinations, the question on every employer’s mind is: can I lawfully direct an employee to get vaccinated? On this, there are no simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answers.

As a general principle, employers can only mandate a vaccine for employees, providing: 

  1. It is a reasonable and lawful direction in all the circumstances, to ensure the safety of the employee, the customers, the public and other employees; or 
  2. Vaccination is an inherent requirement of the position.

It must be assessed and determined on a case-by-case basis. An inquiry would be necessary to understand whether it was a reasonable and lawful direction (also considering whether an employee has a valid objection) or an inherent requirement of the position. This will very much depend on the circumstances, which will vary from business to business. 

For example, an electrical contractor required to perform electrical work at a quarantine or aged care facility where there is a public health order in place requiring every person entering such premises to be vaccinated, may well be entitled to issue a lawful and reasonable direction to employees required to work there, to get vaccinated.

The Fair Work Ombudsman have issued guidelines on Covid vaccinations which can be accessed here.

Electrical contractors are advised to seek legal advice in relation to mandatory vaccination and their individual circumstances.

Disclaimer: This summary is a guide only and is not legal advice. For further information on vaccinations, call NECA Legal (WA) Pty Ltd on ()8) 6241 6129 or email necalegalwa@ecawa.org.au.