New employment law means you could lose your job if you refuse COVID-19 vaccine

Lloyd Burr 26/10/2021

LISTEN: The government is introducing a range of measures to help protect workplaces and workers from COVID-19.

Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety Michael Wood made the announcement on Tuesday, essentially backing businesses to vaccinate their workforces.

He said the government is responding to calls from employers and employees to provide certainty on what roles need to be done by vaccinated workers under the COVID-19 Protection Framework.

“We’re mandating vaccination for workers at businesses where customers need to show COVID-19 Vaccination Certificates to make those workplaces as safe as possible and give confidence to staff and customers," Wood said.

But the timing of the mandate coming into effect depends on when the country moves to the COVID-19 Protection Framework.

“We know though that many businesses and employers who are not covered by vaccine certificates want greater clarity on whether they can mandate vaccines. This process will provide businesses with a clear and simplified legal framework to make decisions about requiring staff to be vaccinated or not," he said.

What you need to know:

  • Vaccination will be required for all workers at businesses where customers need to show COVID-19 Vaccination Certificates, such as hospitality and close-contact businesses.
  • New law to introduce a clearer and simplified risk assessment process for employers to follow when deciding whether they can require vaccination for different types of work.
  • Non-vaccinated workers in roles requiring vaccination will be given a new four-week notice period to get vaccinated before employment can be terminated.
  • Employers are required to provide paid time off for workers to get vaccinated and will need to keep records about workers’ vaccination status.

For an employee who refuses to get vaccinated and their workplace requires it, a new four-week notice period will apply.

“This change will only apply to employees who do not have a notice period, or whose notice periods are shorter than four weeks," Wood said.

"Most employees will have notice periods in their employment agreement."

Employers will also be required to keep records about workers’ vaccination status.

Wood said the legislation will pass as a priority to give workplaces the certainty they need as vaccination is one of the best tools to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading.

Jordan Boyle, senior associate Dyhrberg Drayton Employment Law, says having specific legislation will be helpful.

"Currently there's a very small section of society where these vaccine orders apply and everyone else is trying to figure out how to do things based on existing employment law, which keeps us lawyers busy but doesn't necessarily give them a lot of certainty," Boyle told Lloyd Burr Live.

President of the Council of Trade Unions Richard Wagstaff says he strongly supports the vaccination rollout.

"The vast majority of workers want to work in a safe workplace where their colleagues are vaccinated," he told Lloyd Burr Live.

Listen to the full interviews with Michael Wood, Jordan Boyle and Richard Wagstaff above.

Magic Talk | Lloyd Bur Live, weekdays from 4pm.

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