Home - Can we dismiss a worker who refuses to be vaccinated?
November 10, 2021 on chapter Disciplining workers

We have an employee whose role is covered in a public health order as one requiring vaccination against COVID-19. The worker refuses to be vaccinated. We have considered redeployment options, but we cannot find him a full-time alternative role where vaccination is not required. Are we able to terminate his employment if he is unable to fulfill his role because he refuses to get vaccinated?

Employers have obligations under work health and safety laws to provide a safe working environment for their employees. In the context of a health order from the government mandating vaccination, a direction for employees to comply with such an order is likely to be lawful and reasonable.

An employee’s refusal to obey a lawful and reasonable direction may constitute serious misconduct and will generally be a valid reason for dismissal.

For an employer to discipline or dismiss an employee because they have disobeyed its direction to be vaccinated, the employer must show that being vaccinated has the requisite connection with the employee’s employment. That connection will be readily established if there is legislation requiring it, as the case appears to be in your situation.

This measure must be considered in the context of any potential claims for discrimination. If an employee has a medical condition that prevents them from getting the vaccine, and the employer fails to acknowledge this and/or consider reasonable adjustments, any disciplinary action may expose you to liability for discrimination.

We recommend you don’t take disciplinary action lightly and seek independent legal advice.


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