On the 5 August 2021, well-known Australian fruit and vegetable processing company SPC has announced that it will mandate the COVID-19 vaccination for all staff.

The mandate has been introduced following the latest Delta outbreak in which the SPC Chairman Hussein Rifai has announced that, whilst the company had implemented very strict COVID-19 control protocols, this new Delta COVID-19 variant demanded a different response and SPC felt that the only way that it can protect its employees, customers and the wider community, was to require vaccination. To further justify the decision Mr Rifai has stated that he believes that his company is an essential service to the community.

Some 450 on-site workers must be fully vaccinated by November and effectively have six weeks to book their first vaccination or they may risk being barred from on-site work at SPC. To assist in the rollout, SPC on-site workers will receive paid vaccination leave and up to 2 days a special leave to recover Should they become on well following receipt of the vaccine.

Whilst company mandated vaccines are required in many countries around the world including Google in the United States, no Australian company has sought to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine to date. Currently in Australia the only vaccine mandate in place with respect to COVID-19 is for particular aged care health care sector workers and has been mandated by the Commonwealth Government pursuant to the current public health orders.

It previous articles we have discussed the legalities of this issue. In most cases, in most industries it is not reasonable for employer’s to require staff to be vaccinated. However, the risk profile of this particular industry together with the ferocity of the new Delta variant and state based health and safety requirements may change the way the SPC mandate is viewed.

The announcement is not without controversy with many commentators are suggesting that this could become Australia’s legal test case which could flesh out what is and isn’t “reasonable” with respect to an employer’s direction to an employee for a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination and may set a new standard for Australia moving forward, including for other vaccinations.

What Next?

SPC are not the first organisation to push for mandatory vaccinations of employees. Last week Qantas CEO Alan Joyce spoke about wanting government mandated vaccinations for all airline staff particularly given the origins of the current outbreak in NSW. Whilst nothing is certain in current times, it is likely that this announcement may trigger a similar (or publicly different) response from other organisations and government commentary or response.

Adams & Partners Lawyers understands the importance of being up to date with the latest laws and directives on these issues. We will be watching this situation closely and publish any further updates as they become available.

Our Employment Law Team Can Help:

Given the severity of the consequences we encourage employers who are considering giving such a direction to staff, to have the nature of their operations, their business and industry reviewed by our employment law team to assist you in make the best decision possible with all the information available at the time.

Likewise, if you are an employee who has been given a direction to receive a COVID-19 vaccination as a requirement to retaining your position with a business and you disagree or otherwise are unable to have the COVID-19 vaccine, we are also able to assist you with navigating this tricky situation.

We have been keeping up to date with the current changes and links to our other articles are below:

  1. COVID-19 Vaccine – Part 1
  2. COVID-19 Vaccine – Can my employer force me to get it?

 

Written by Amelia Hatton.

 

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