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Employers Must Be Proactive Ahead Of Vaccine Mandate Deadline

Businesses that use My Vaccine Passes to operate must ensure all workers are vaccinated or risk heavy fines - under the Government’s new traffic light system.

Workers covered by the My Vaccine Pass mandate need to have their first COVID-19 jab by 3 December and be fully vaccinated by 17 January 2022. The mandate applies to those working in industries such as hospitality and events, as well as those who work in close contact businesses such as hairdressers or gyms.

Employers are rightfully concerned, and this concern is reflected in figures from Employsure’s advice line for business owners. Vaccine-related calls surged a further 187% in October over September, as employers continue to struggle with the rules around vaccine mandates, as well as keeping their workplaces safe.

With the deadline for the first jab less than two weeks away, affected employers have now been put in a tricky situation where some delicate conversations will need to be had with workers - particularly those who refuse to get vaccinated.

“The situation is a double-edged sword for employers who are now being told to choose between their business and their workers,” said Employsure employment relations specialist Maddie McKenzie.

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“Those businesses that opt in or are required to use the vaccine passes, but fail to enforce them, could face fines up to $15,000. However, those who let go of unvaccinated workers without following a fair and reasonable process could face unnecessary claims simply for following Government orders.

“While many of the cases may be dismissed due to there being a legislation requiring the employee to be vaccinated against a particular disease in order to work in a specific field, it’s the mental stress and the heartache associated with the mandates that are going to hit employers the hardest, after nearly two years of disruptions.

“Businesses do, however, have a duty under health and safety legislation to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers and others in the workplace. Affected employers will have to put their business and the safety of their workplace first and ensure all workers are vaccinated, or be hit with fines that most will not be able to afford.”

While some worksites may be at higher risk than others, it shouldn’t stop employers in lower risk settings from keeping track of which employees have been vaccinated if employees are willing to discuss this information. Employee management software like BrightHR’s Vacctrak feature allows employers to monitor who is fully, partially, or not vaccinated against COVID-19 in the workplace.

If a public health direction requires a particular employee to be vaccinated, then it is reasonable for a business to enforce this (subject to any exemptions included in the public health order, for example for workers who are unable to be vaccinated on medical grounds).

Businesses should check the Government’s websites here and here for information about current public health directions, to determine if any public health directions apply to them and require an employee to be vaccinated.

A full process must still be followed, including fully consulting with the employee about why they are not being vaccinated, and consideration of any redeployment opportunities.

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