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Vaccinations in the Workplace: Five Things Employers Should Know

Published February 24, 2021 (last updated June 7, 2022) - Head of Health and Safety

On 21 February, a small group mainly made up of aged care residents, staff and other frontline health workers, became the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccinations in Australia.

This small group was made up to be representative of the first phase of the Federal Government’s staggered vaccine rollout. The first phase will see quarantine and border workers, frontline healthcare workers, and aged care and disability care staff and residents receive the vaccine.

Even if your business isn’t in one of the first sectors or industries to receive the vaccinations, it is never too soon to start preparing your business. The Government wants to have everyone (who wishes to be) vaccinated by October – only eight months away.

There’s a lot to understand regarding the challenges for employers arising from the coming COVID-19 vaccine rollout. To help you better understand the challenges you may face, following are general outlines of five things Employsure recommends employers should know.

The Vaccine Won’t Be Mandatory

The Federal Government has confirmed the vaccine will not be made mandatory at a federal level. State and Territory Governments may introduce requirements for employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccination in specific circumstances. 

On top of that, there are no current legislative or regulatory requirements which either permit or prohibit employers to direct employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.

It May Not Be So Easy to Direct Employees to Be Vaccinated

Firstly, the vaccine won’t be mandatory which means the federal government will not put any legislation in place regarding vaccinations. Secondly, the grounds for directing employees to be vaccinated at a State or Territory level either don’t exist for many employers, or if they do exist, they are very conditional, depending on the level of risk to the business.

Directing your employees to be vaccinated has to be a ‘lawful’ and ‘reasonable’ action; considering the above, it will likely be very hard for the average small business to request their staff to be vaccinated without legislation or a public health direction.

To be clear, the grounds for some employers to direct their employees to be vaccinated may be straightforward but across all small businesses this is likely to be the exception and not the rule.

Set Up a Vaccination Policy

Here is a free template policy covering vaccination, immunisation, and infection control.

Track Workplace Vaccinations with BrightHR

Keep track of who’s had the COVID-19 vaccine in your business with our exclusive online tool. Introducing VaccTrak by BrightHR.

With VaccTrak you can:

  • Update your employee profiles to easily record who’s had the COVID-19 vaccine
  • Download regular reports to see exactly who’s been vaccinated, so you can keep your people safe during the vaccine roll-out.
  • Download professional letter templates to encourage your staff to have the vaccine.
  • Access our exclusive vaccine awareness courses. Share them with your staff to educate them on the vaccine and answer any complex questions.

With BrightHR software, you get a range of online tools to help you manage COVID-19 vaccinations in your business. That includes unlimited document storage space which you can use to keep your vaccination letters and policies safe and secure. You can even share these with your staff and check who’s read them with our clever read receipt feature.

Plus, with BrightHR’s free mobile app, you can get instant notifications of requests for vaccine appointments and approve them in a single swipe.

Employers Have a Duty of Care

Despite the fact the vaccine won’t be mandatory, or that it may not be easy to direct employees to be vaccinated, employers still have remind themselves that they have a duty of care to their employees in terms of workplace health and safety. Sitting on your hands and doing nothing won’t satisfy your health and safety obligations.

Emma Dawson, one of Employsure’s many workplace relations experts who interacts with business owners daily, nicely described options available to employers:

“An employer has a duty to do everything reasonably practicable to reduce health and safety risks in the workplace,” Emma says.

“Existing infection control measures, such as physical distancing, routine environmental cleaning, and the use of hand-sanitiser and personal protective equipment may be satisfactory to meet health and safety obligations without requiring employees to get vaccinated. 

“Business owners should consider introducing a detailed infection control policy which addresses vaccinations and an immunisation program.” 

Our Resources Can Help You Better Understand

Do you need further help in understanding COVID-19 vaccinations, and how they will affect you as an employer? You can find out more in our free guide and webinars that cover what employers should know about COVID-19 vaccinations in the workplace.

COVID-19 Vaccinations Kit for Employers

This kit can help you understand and navigate vaccinations in the workplace.

Webinar: COVID-19 Vaccinations Employer Fundamentals

Don’t have enough time to read our guide? Tune into our webinar to get a quick dose of the fundamentals of COVID-19 vaccinations in the workplace.

This blog has been compiled on the basis of general information current at the time of publication. Changes in circumstances after publication may affect the completeness or accuracy of this information. 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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