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The Hazards of Workers becoming ‘Vaccination Police’

Published December 14, 2021 (last updated May 3, 2022) - Head of Health and Safety
customer aggression

A looming potential rise in workplace violence is not lost on business owners, as data from Employsure’s dedicated employer Advice Line reveals a 37% increase in risk related management calls from July to September compared with the same quarter last year.

Employers have a health and safety duty to eliminate or minimise the risk of a hazard occurring in the workplace. Hazards can take the form of customer aggression (as this may result in physical or psychological harm) and therefore the business has a duty to minimise it to the lowest possible level.

“Clients have told us they’ve already seen an increase in workplace violence over the past few months when enforcing COVID rules, and this is expected to get worse as workplaces open exclusively for the fully vaccinated,” said Employsure senior health and safety manager Larry Drewsen.

“While of course business owners need to comply with government health orders, putting them, as well as their young workers, in the firing line of aggressive customers can be detrimental to their physical and mental wellbeing.

“It is more important now than ever before for business owners to be proactive and ensure the correct control measures are implemented to minimise the risk of physical and psychological harm in the workplace.”

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Minimising the Risk

Employers should undertake a risk assessment to identify whether customer aggression is a likely hazard that could exist in the workplace. This process should be done in consultation with employees.

If a potential risk is found, there are several control measures that can be introduced to help minimise it. This can include:

  • Installing screens or barriers between customers and workers if practical
  • Ensuring, where possible, employees do not work alone
  • Implementing policies to deal with customer aggression and mental health impacts
  • Preparing a safe operating procedure so that staff are aware of how to handle aggressive customers

Set expectations

These coming months will be a test for all employers and there will undoubtedly be backlash from customers who may not want to disclose their medical records. The onus must therefore fall on employers to set expectations with customers of the condition of entry. This may include placing a notice on the entrance stating aggressive behaviour will not be tolerated. Employers can also choose to implement a customer complaint policy for handling customer issues.

“Business owners won’t be able to turn a blind eye to this and must be prepared for a rise in complaints and potential aggression from customers,” continued Mr Drewsen.

“Most people will be reasonable and compliant, but for the minority, having the correct expectations set in a business, and having staff better trained on what to do in the unlikely event, can help diffuse a potentially violent situation.”

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The information in the above article has been compiled on the basis of general information current at the time of publication. Please note that the contents of this article and website and any information provided by our Help Line do not constitute legal advice and are not intended to be a substitute for legal or other professional advice and should not be relied upon as such. Your specific circumstances or changes in circumstances after publication may affect the completeness or accuracy of this information. You should seek legal advice or other professional advice in relation to any particular matters you or your organisation may have. To the maximum extent permitted by law, we disclaim all liability for any errors or omissions contained in this information or any failure to update or correct this information. It is your responsibility to assess and verify the accuracy, completeness, currency and reliability of the information on this website, and to seek professional advice where necessary. Nothing contained on this website is to be interpreted as a recommendation to use any product, process or formulation or any information on this website. For clarity, Employsure does not recommend any material, products or services of any third parties. 

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