The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) released new guidance around allowing employers in some industries to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for staff.

Fair Work has released a four-tier system to advise employers on whether a mandatory vaccination direction would be considered lawful and reasonable. For workers within Tiers 1 and 2, a compulsory vaccination mandate is likely to be considered reasonable. The direction must also comply with anti-discrimination laws.

  • Tier 1 work: Where employees are required as part of their duties to interact with people with an increased risk of being infected with coronavirus (for example, employees working in hotel quarantine or border control).

  • Tier 2 work: Where employees are required to have close contact with people who are particularly vulnerable to the health impacts of coronavirus (for example, employees working in health care or aged care).

  • Tier 3 work: Where there is interaction or likely interaction between employees and other people such as customers, other employees or the public in the normal course of employment (for example, stores providing essential goods and services).

  • Tier 4 work: Where employees have minimal face-to-face interaction as part of their normal employment duties (for example, where they are working from home).

The Ombudsman stated that mandated vaccination is unlikely to be seen as reasonable for workers in Tier 4. However, Tier 3 is more of a grey area and the FWO stated:

  • where no community transmission of coronavirus has occurred for some time in the area where the employer is located, a direction to employees to be vaccinated is in most cases less likely to be reasonable

  • where community transmission of coronavirus is occurring in an area, and an employer is operating a workplace in that area that needs to remain open despite a lockdown, a direction to employees to receive a vaccination is more likely to be reasonable.

Fair Work advised employers to make directions on a case-by-case basis, using the tier level of the employee for guidance. But employers must also consider whether supply issues are impacting a worker's ability to be vaccinated and consider how it will deal with workers who cannot be vaccinated on medical or religious grounds.


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Information sourced from: Fair Work Ombudsman

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