Mandatory workplace vaccination: Reflections on recent developments

  • Mandatory workplace vaccination has gone from being an interesting theoretical consideration to a matter of immediate practical concern.
  • An employer can potentially mandate vaccination pursuant to its right to issue 'lawful and reasonable' directions to employees.
  • However, an additional consideration for employers is whether there are any extenuating circumstances, such as type of vaccine, that would make a mandatory vaccine direction unreasonable and therefore unlawful in respect of a particular employee.

With the current troubling COVID-19 cluster in NSW, and a deep concern about the relatively low rates of vaccination of staff in some industries which deal with the sick and the vulnerable, most notably aged care, the issue of mandatory workplace vaccination has gone from being an interesting theoretical consideration to a matter of immediate practical concern.

This concern resulted in a National Cabinet Statement, issued on 28 June 2021, in relation to workers in aged care:

The National Cabinet agreed to mandate that at least the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine be administered by mid-September 2021 for all residential aged care workforce.

The National Cabinet agreed that COVID-19 vaccinations are to be mandated for residential aged care workers as a condition of working in an aged care facility through shared state, territory and Commonwealth authorities and compliance measures.

Here are some observations on various recent developments relating to mandatory workplace vaccination.

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