More businesses will follow the lead of tech giant Salesforce in its plan to restrict on-site work to vaccinated staff when restrictions ease in Australia, an employment lawyer says.
Ian Neil SC, employment and industrial relations law barrister, expects more smaller businesses in service-based sectors will consider similar strategies to Salesforce’s when vaccines become widely available.
“It comes down to the question of whether employers can lawfully require their employees to lawfully be vaccinated,” Neil tells SmartCompany.
As vaccines become generally available, more businesses will be able to lawfully require their staff to get vaccinated, he adds.
Salesforce is looking to bring the vaccination strategy it has adopted in its US offices to Australia where it employs about 2000 staff.
Pip Marlow, regional chief executive of Salesforce, told The Sydney Morning Herald that rather than mandating the vaccine, she is considering allowing workers to voluntarily return to the office in a staggered approach if they are fully vaccinated.
“We really don’t have all the answers here, but what we do know is that when we do reopen in our offices here our number one priority is: can we do it in a way that is safe for our people and our customers?” Marlow said.
This week, mining company BHP Group announced it is considering making COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory at its Australian sites and is also looking at offering jabs on-site.
Neil expects smaller businesses will soon follow suit with similar plans, after vaccines become widely available across the country and vaccination rates increase.
“Then most employers will lawfully be able to require most employees to be vaccinated,” he says.
While Neil acknowledges the Fair Work Ombudsman’s guidance on mandating vaccines, he says that the government should provide further clarity to businesses navigating the issue of vaccines at work.
“There really should be legislation that deals with this issue,” he says.
On Saturday, the federal government announced a COVID-19 indemnity scheme, which will see the federal government pay out claims from Australians, if they suffer adverse side effects from a COVID-19 vaccine.
The no-fault COVID-19 indemnity scheme, set to begin from September 6, has been widely welcomed by the business community.