Australian employers could require some workers to be vaccinated after commission ruling

Paul Karp (The Guardian)

Employers’ power to direct employees to be vaccinated has received a boost in the Fair Work Commission, which has upheld the sacking of a childcare worker who refused a flu jab.

Although the commission said the decision “relates specifically to the influenza vaccination in a childcare environment”, the case confirms labour law experts’ belief that an employer’s direction to get a vaccination can be “lawful and reasonable”.

The question of directing staff to be vaccinated was under some legal doubt – as the Fair Work Commission case is the first of its kind, and could still be the subject of appeal.

Despite Fair Work Ombudsman advice warning employers they may not be able to require vaccinations, experts including the barrister Ian Neil and Adelaide University professor Andrew Stewart have said that employers’ power in common law to give employees “lawful and reasonable” directions could extend to ordering them to get vaccinated.

Bou-Jamie Barber, a childcare worker at Goodstart Early Learning since 2006, brought an unfair dismissal case after she was sacked for objecting to getting a flu vaccination when her employer introduced a new policy requiring it in April 2020.


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