Employers have the right to ask employees if they have been vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to try to maintain a workplace safe from infection.  This does not mean that vaccinations can be mandated by an employer, noting that the Prime Minister has repeatedly confirmed that “the vaccination program in Australia is free and not mandatory”.

In practice where employers are aware of the vaccination status of their employees, they may be able to structure their operation to remove or minimise the interaction of unvaccinated workers from customers and clients or other staff so as to avoid increased risk of virus spread.

Adding to the complexity of this issue is the limited circumstances in which employers can collect information about an employee’s vaccination.  This can be done where it is reasonably necessary to maintain a safe workplace and reasonable steps have been taken to keep that information secure.  In healthcare and related areas there may even be scope to retain such information without employee’s consent where the information is required or authorised by law.

What is reasonable in one situation may not be considered reasonable for others and employers should take advice before seeking to compel disclosure of employees concerning their vaccination status, or varying an employee’s contract conditions based upon information they are aware of as they may be acting in a way that open themselves up to claims of bullying or discrimination.

Please contact a member of our commercial law team on 9525 8688 to discuss your circumstances.