As large companies such as Nasfund, BSP and Lamana implement workplace vaccination programs, questions remain about the grey areas surrounding workplace vaccination policies.
"We protect our employees and customers by getting the vaccine" - Steph, Lamana Hotel
THE SITUATION IN AUSTRALIA
Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, recently said that vaccines should remain "voluntary and free" and that businesses have a legal obligation to keep workplaces safe in order to minimise pandemic risks.
In the absence of public health orders, contractual obligations or industrial instruments, employers can only mandate that staff be vaccinated through a lawful and reasonable direction.
"Decisions to require COVID-19 vaccinations for employees will be a matter for individual businesses, taking into account their particular circumstances and their obligations under safety, anti-discrimination and privacy laws," Morrison said.
THE GREY AREAS
"Generally, for any vaccination, whether it's for COVID-19, flu, smallpox or otherwise, you require the person's consent to do it. That's from a medical point of view, as well as in terms of employment contracts. The only way around this is if a vaccination is legislated." - Jamie McPherson, HBA Legal
If there is no legislation, employers can be accused of discrimination because employees often resist vaccinations on religious or medical grounds, or if pregnant. However, if an employer gives a reasonable direction to an employee to do something, and the employee fails to do it, that person's employment can be terminated.
"In the absence of a clear legislated mandate for employers to implement compulsory vaccination policies, businesses will need to look at their safety obligations and customer demand to justify such a policy. If the risk of infection at the workplace is sufficiently great, for example, hotel quarantine, or the consequences for the business and its customers sufficiently dire, then a mandatory vaccination policy is likely to be justified by work, health and safety legislation."
Qantas CEO, Alan Joyce, has called for governments to mandate that all airline staff be vaccinated. Given the frequency of flights between P.N.G. and Australia, we expect the same requirements will be implemented here, if not already.
While the data shows that the risk of COVID-19 transmission onboard aircrafts remains low, it only takes one case to inadvertently shit down a freight facility or passenger terminal which can have a big impact on the economy.
A strict 'No Jab, No Job' policy will never work. Just look at the protesting going on in France after Macron's decision to make vaccinations compulsory. "A mandatory vaccination policy will only be defensible and enforceable if it allows exceptions on valid medical grounds and enables consultation about ways to keep in employment an employee with valid grounds to object to vaccination."