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Vaccinations – your questions answered

A high rate of COVID-19 vaccination is essential to limiting this pandemic and rebuilding a fairer economy and more equitable and safe society.

Australian Unions are committed to achieving the highest possible rates of vaccination. We support the rollout of safe and effective vaccines and encourage all workers to get vaccinated as soon as they are eligible.

Australian Unions are not health authorities, so we follow the advice of the medical and scientific experts on health-related aspects of COVID-19 and vaccines for COVID-19. You can check the latest information about COVID-19 from the Federal Government to stay up to date about COVID-19 vaccines.

Below we have answered common questions you may have about vaccinations and your workers’ rights.

You can also contact the Australian Unions Support Centre for free and confidential assistance for all workplace issues.

Vaccinations and the workplace

Getting vaccinated is one of the best ways to protect yourself from getting seriously ill from COVID-19. Vaccines have also been shown to be effective at reducing the likelihood that you will catch and spread COVID-19 to others. The overwhelming majority of workers in Australia want to get vaccinated, and Australian Unions are here to support you to get vaccinated as soon as they are eligible. 

Can I take sick leave to get vaccinated?

Sick leave is only able to be used where you have an injury or illness that makes you unfit to work.

Australian Unions have been working directly with employers to secure paid vaccination leave for all workers. But we need the Government to step up now and make vaccination leave a universal right for all workers. You can support our campaign for paid vaccination leave here.

Can I take sick leave if I feel unwell after being vaccinated?

Yes, provided you have a sick leave entitlement. 

Casual workers do not have a sick leave entitlement unless their employer has specifically agreed to this. 

You should speak to your union if you do feel unwell after being vaccinated as some unions have negotiated specific entitlements that may not require you to draw down on your sick leave. 

In a limited range of circumstances, you may be entitled to workers compensation payments.

I’m a casual – what entitlements do I get to access the vaccination?

Casual workers generally have no entitlement to paid absences unless their employer has specifically agreed to this.

Some unions have negotiated entitlements to compensate for time taken to receive a vaccination.  It is best to check with your union if this entitlement is available at your workplace.  

Casual workers are entitled to workers’ compensation, and you may be entitled to compensation if you experience side effects from a COVID-19 vaccination.

Are vaccinations mandatory?

Mandatory vaccination programs already exist in most parts of Australia for a range of vaccines. They apply to workers who public health authorities have identified as being at risk of contracting and/or spreading a disease.

Vaccination laws differ from state to state but most states and territories have some form of compulsory scheme that mandate vaccines for some segments of the workforce. These mandates are generally, but not always, implemented through the use of Public Health Orders.

Even without specific laws, there are some circumstances where a worker can be compelled to receive a vaccination as a condition of employment.

If you have concerns about mandatory vaccinations and your workplace, contact your union or the Australian Unions Support Centre

How can I be protected from unvaccinated people in the workplace?

A vast majority of workers and the public support being vaccinated but even as we get closer to reaching high rates of vaccination targets, transmission from unvaccinated people will remain a risk.

Work health and safety law requires employers to provide safe and healthy workplaces. They must provide safe and healthy workplaces by eliminating or reducing risks so that workers have the highest level of safety reasonably practicable. If your employer is putting health and safety at risk, they are breaking the law. Given that vaccines do not completely eliminate the risk of COVID-19 your workplace must ensure that other measures are put in place to reduce the risk. These include improved ventilation, social distancing and improved cleaning and hygiene practices.

If you believe your employer is not managing health and safety risks adequately, contact your union.

Does my employer have to consult me about introducing new vaccination policies?

Health and Safety laws across the country require employers to consult with workers, and their representatives, whose health and safety may be directly affected when making decisions about ways to eliminate or reduce risks to health and safety.

A policy on vaccinations is an example of when consultation is required. It is important to remember that if there is a Health and Safety Representative (HSR – who is a fellow worker elected by workers to represent them on health and safety matters), then the employer must consult with the relevant HSRs as well.

Workers and HSRs can access their unions for assistance.

What can I do if my boss is treating me unfairly because I’m vaccinated?

All workers have a legal right to a workplace that is free from bullying, harassment and discrimination.

If your employer treats you less favourably because you are vaccinated, it may be considered workplace discrimination.

If you believe that you are being discriminated against at work, contact your union for advice about how to handle the situation.

If discrimination cannot be resolved at the workplace level, you may be able to file a complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission or your state equal opportunity, human rights, or anti-discrimination commission.  Your union can provide you with assistance and representation throughout this process.

Contact the Australian Unions Support Centre  if you need assistance connecting with a union.

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