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Health and Safety Policy - COVID-19 – What you need to know
Your duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act (2015) (the HSW Act) extend to minimising the risks associated with the COVID-19 virus in your workplace. We recommend that all health and safety policies are updated to identify how the vaccination may help you meet your duties under the HSW Act. We summarise seven key points you will need to consider when updating your health and safety policy:
- Employers are encouraged to support employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19. This means that any policy should allow staff to book and get vaccinated during work hours.
- Mandatory vaccination in your workplace will be permissible only in limited circumstances.
- To implement a mandatory vaccination policy, you will need to consider whether your existing employment framework allows for this and whether the presence of unvaccinated persons genuinely creates a health and safety risk that you cannot reasonably accommodate.
- In most situations, roles or tasks within your business will have different levels of risk associated with transmission of the virus amongst employees and between employees and customers or clients. You have a duty to identify the risks associated and take reasonably practicable steps to mitigate those risks.
- Employers may allow only vaccinated staff to perform the more risky roles or tasks, only if your health and safety policy identifies vaccination as a measure to mitigate those risks.
- For workplaces that do not require mandatory vaccination, employers are entitled to ask whether employees are or intend to be vaccinated. However, employees are entitled to privacy and do not have to answer the question.
- To introduce a mandatory vaccination policy or other policies relating to the vaccine in your workplace, you will need to implement a rigorous process of consultation. Please contact us if you are considering a policy for your workplace as we can assist.
Balancing your obligations under the HSW Act alongside other rights and obligations under privacy law, human rights and broader employment laws can be a tricky labyrinth.
Every business situation is unique – what is considered “reasonably practicable” comes down to a number of factors including likelihood, degree of harm, and practical business considerations. There is no ‘one-size’ approach to compliance. You do not need to navigate this on your own, and we are available to provide tailored advice or template policies to you to adapt into your business.
We can also assist with:
- Wage subsidy advice
- Redundancy or restructuring processes
- Reviewing and updating your general health and safety policy
- Updating employment agreements to incorporate mandatory vaccination requirements
Mactodd’s Business, Employment and Health and Safety teams are here to assist you in these uncertain times. Don’t hesitate to contact us.
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