Vaccinations – your questions answered

With much of the country back in lockdown, it is clear the war against COVID-19 is not over. Our most effective weapon in this battle is vaccination.

Australian Unions is calling on the Government to provide in-workplace vaccination programs, a choice of vaccines, and more funds to pay workers for sick leave if they suffer vaccine side effects.

But while we wait on Morrison to fix the bungled vaccination roll-out, it’s essential that everyone who is able get vaccinated, do so as soon as it is available to them.

Below we have answered key questions you may have about the vaccination program and your workers’ rights. You can also contact the Australian Unions Support Centre for free and confidential assistance for all workplace issues.

Some unions have negotiated paid time off to receive a vaccination so it’s best to check with your union if this entitlement is available at your workplace.

If this is not available at your work and you are entitled to annual leave as part of your employment, your employer is not permitted to unreasonably refuse your request to take that leave.

If there is a workplace requirement to get vaccinated your employer will need to assist you to access and recover from vaccination. This may include paid time to travel to attend a vaccination clinic.

No.  Sick leave is only able to be used where you have an injury or illness that makes you unfit to work.

Yes, if 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 use your sick leave.  In a limited range of circumstances, you may be entitled to workers compensation payments.

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, so check with your union if this entitlement is available at your workplace.

Health and Safety laws across the country require employers to consult with workers 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.

In the majority of cases, no.

Generally, employers cannot introduce a mandatory requirement to be vaccinated, unless your type of work is subject to a Public Health Order.

In most workplaces, it is not reasonably practicable to mandate vaccinations. However, this may change as government directives change eg for quarantine and Aged Care workers.

Any vaccination policy will need to be discussed with workers and their representatives – including HSRs.

It is very important that if your employer suggests vaccinations are mandatory that you raise this with your union.

Vaccinations for COVID -19 have been designed to prevent those infected with the coronavirus from becoming very ill. Those who are vaccinated may still be able to become infected or pass the virus on to others.

Vaccinations are available through government clinics, GPs and for some workers through their employers.

The vaccines are voluntary (except for a very limited number of workers who are subject to Public Health Orders that require vaccinations) and free.

Federal and State Government websites provide information on how to make an appointment.

There is also a National Coronavirus Helpline for information and advice about COVID-19 – COVID-19 vaccine enquiries or call 1800 020 080.

Show support our frontline workers