As Australia rolls out the COVID-19 vaccine, some organisations are thinking about whether they can require their employees and volunteers to be vaccinated as a condition of employment. Organisations that work with vulnerable groups or have direct contact with the public might have a greater sense of urgency to vaccinate their team.
Are you wondering how the COVID-19 vaccine rollout may affect your business? Can you force your volunteers to take the vaccine? What do you do if they refuse to take the vaccine?
Can our organisation make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory?
There are currently no laws that require anyone to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The federal, state and territory governments have indicated that the COVID-19 vaccination will not be compulsory, however, they strongly encourage people to be vaccinated.
Some state and territory health agencies may still pass public health orders that make it compulsory for people working in high risk workplaces (such as aged care, travel and border security) to be vaccinated. These orders may apply to volunteers, and organisations must comply with public health orders that are issued.
Can our organisation end a volunteer relationship if a volunteer refuses to be vaccinated?
If you are required by law or a public health order to have your volunteers vaccinated, you should act in accordance with the law and end the volunteer relationship if a volunteer refuses to be vaccinated. However, if vaccination is not mandatory and someone refuses to be vaccinated, there are a number of things you should consider before ending the volunteer relationship.
Your organisation may choose to end a volunteer relationship for any number of reasons. This may include if a volunteer’s presence could be detrimental to the health and safety of others in your organisation or to the people your organisation works with.
Could our organisation be responsible if an unvaccinated volunteer is diagnosed with COVID-19 in the course of their volunteering?
Under negligence and work health and safety laws, all organisations are required to take reasonable steps to protect the safety of their volunteers, however, it is unlikely that your organisation will be directly responsible. If a volunteer is diagnosed with COVID-19, the organisation could be held responsible if it failed to take reasonable precautions to manage this risk.
For more information on the above, or to learn more on what information you should provide to volunteers about the vaccine program, click the button below:
If you have any questions regarding COVID-19 and your business, please contact Katie Dempster on 03 5443 0344.