Vaccinations: Can You Insist?

There’s been plenty of encouragement for vaccinations in recent times, and just as much confusion over legal rights and obligations when it comes to requiring employees to be vaccinated before they come back to work.


Unfortunately, states have different requirements–for instance, in Victoria authorised workers in both Melbourne and regional Victoria, who can’t work from home, are required to have had their first COVID-19 vaccine dose by 15 October 2021 in order to continue working on-site, and their second dose by 26 November 2021.

To find out about your own state’s obligations, it’s important to check with your own health department.

When it comes to insisting that employees are vaccinated for COVID-19, the independent government organisation, known as FairWork Australia, makes it clear that you can only direct your employees to be vaccinated “if the direction is lawful and reasonable”. This will be dependent on the circumstances of each employee–a direction for one employee won’t necessarily apply to all.

To be lawful, a direction needs to comply with any employment contract, award or agreement, and any relevant Commonwealth, state or territory law. To be reasonable, a direction needs to be relevant to the employee’s circumstances; i.e, the nature of the workplace and their role within it; the extent(and risk)of community transmission of COVID-19while at work; relevant public health orders; the effectiveness of vaccines in reducing the risk of transmission or serious illness, work health and safety obligations; the duties and risks associated with the employee’s work; vaccine availability; and whether they have a legitimate reason not to be vaccinated.

A helpful suggestion, when determining who you can direct to be vaccinated, is to divide your workforce into four tiers. The four tiers, described by FairWork Australia, will help you determine each person’s risk of catching or transmitting COVID-19, and therefore their ‘need’ to be vaccinated:

  • Tier 1: employees must, as part of their duties, interact with people with an increased risk of being infected with coronavirus.
  • Tier 2: employees required to have close contact with people who are particularly vulnerable to the health impacts of coronavirus.
  • Tier 3: employees interact or are likely to interact with other people, such as customers, other employees or the public in the normal course of employment;
  • Tier 4: employees who have minimal face-to-face interaction as part of their normal employment duties.

To find out more, visit FairWork Australia.

Ayers Can Help

Preparing your staff to get back to business in a COVID-world is complex. The Ayer Group can free you up to focus on keeping them safe by helping you manage administrative processes like your payroll and contractor management. Talk to an expert at the Ayers Group today.