As the start date looms for the Covid-19 Protection Framework (Traffic Light System), the vaccine pass and mandate have just got very real with the announcement by two major retailers, The Warehouse Group and Countdown, joining the list of employers making vaccination mandatory for their staff.
Without doubt, the government announcement this week about extended vaccine mandates for close-contact businesses has taken some workplaces by surprise, with short time frames meaning many businesses have to tackle some hefty issues before the country moves to the new framework on Friday, 3rd December.
It continues to be a changing landscape, with legislative changes working through parliament at rapid speed. The Covid-19 Response (Vaccinations) Legislation Act 2021 received its Royal Assent yesterday ahead of the Traffic Light System which comes into force on 3rd December.
This is an important piece of legislation because it outlines the requirements employers and employees must meet with respect to mandatory vaccinations. More importantly (in my opinion) it also now outlines the provisions employers must meet when terminating employment based on vaccination status. Broadly speaking, these requirements include:
- The employee must have been advised of the date by which they must be vaccinated
- The employer must have considered all reasonable alternatives for retaining the employee – termination should be a last resort
- The employee is entitled to 4 weeks’ paid notice or the notice period specified in their employment agreement – whichever is the greater
- If an employee gets their vaccine or is otherwise permitted to work (in accordance with a Covid-19 order) before the end of the notice period, termination of employment will no longer hold although there are some provisions for unreasonable disruption in this scenario
The landscape with respect to vaccination mandates is evolving and we don’t have the full picture yet. Having said that, we have identified some key things for you to consider as an employer:
- Understand how the Traffic Light System applies to your business
- Use the risk assessment tools – some of which are due to be released in December
- Get some assistance before introducing mandatory vaccinations, but at the same time understand that if you are in an industry signalled as requiring mandatory vaccination you need to move quickly
- Consult, consult, consult is a useful mantra to apply to your discussions
If you want a hand, please give us a call on 07 823 3250 or email [email protected] and we can help.