Paid vaccination leave should not be the financial responsibility of SMEs

Published June 21, 2021 -
Paid Vaccine Leave

While employers should do everything they can to incentivise their employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine, the last thing they need is to pay their workers to get it.

Unions are calling for the introduction of a nationwide ‘paid vaccine leave’, which would allow workers to get the jab and recover from any side effects, all at a cost to their employer.

But with international borders still closed for the foreseeable future, and snap lockdowns still well on the cards, Employsure, Australia’s largest workplace relations advisor, argues small business owners simply can’t afford it.

“You wouldn’t request paid time off to get the flu shot or other vaccines unless you were unfit for work as a result of receiving it. Work either provides it, or you do it in your own time,” said Employsure Employment Relations Expert Nicholas Hackenberg.

“If a business is willing to offer its employees paid leave to get the vaccine on their own accord, then that’s a different story. What they don’t need however is to have that burden thrust upon them, particularly when so many small and medium-sized businesses are still scraping by.”

The issue plaguing the slow rollout of the vaccine, especially for those who work nine-to-five, is the ease of access to getting one.

With mass-vaccination hubs out of reach for many, and GPs limited to operating at certain times of the day, more locations and times need to be introduced so eligible workers can more easily get the jab outside of work hours.

Employers should monitor which employees have been vaccinated by using employee management software, such as BrightHR. This allows them to keep track of who is fully, partially, or not vaccinated against COVID-19, and make rostering / working arrangement changes accordingly.

Employers have now also been given the option by the Therapeutic Goods Administration to offer cash, vouchers, or other rewards to employees who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Businesses can also create their own internal advertisements to support vaccinations, as long as they are consistent with government messaging, don’t provide any false or misleading information, don’t reference or compare different brands, and don’t promote any vaccine that has not been approved by the TGA.

“Empowering small business owners to educate employees and promote the roll out of the vaccine is a step in the right direction, and could ultimately lead to more people getting the jab. But again, what will not help is the added stress of a new mandatory paid leave, were it to be introduced. Businesses have suffered enough and do not need to be reaching into their coffers unnecessarily.

“A smoother and more accessible rollout is key to speeding up our economic recovery, and this can only be achieved by providing more convenient locations and times for people to get it. This is a burden that should not be imposed on small business owners when other options are available,” concluded Mr Hackenberg. 

Further enquiries:

Matthew Bridges

[email protected]

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