COVID-19 vaccine: How employers can reduce hesitancy among staff

Study finds majority of casual workers think employers right to enforce jabs

COVID-19 vaccine: How employers can reduce hesitancy among staff

A new study suggests almost three quarters of the casual workers in Australia believe their employers have a right to ask staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The study of 500 casual workers carried out by workforce management platform Humanforce also found 70% of those surveyed are more likely to be vaccinated if it’s recommended by their employer.

The study highlights the important role employers play in reducing hesitancy around being vaccinated. The research found 67% of respondents had been concerned about their health in the workplace throughout the COVID-19 period and it was the main reason they wanted to be vaccinated. However, 24% were still undecided on being vaccinated and 12% said they did not intend to have the jab.

Humanforce CEO Clayton Pyne said there has been a lot of talk as to whether certain employers would move towards mandatory vaccinations in a bid to speed up the country’s economic recovery.

“Many employer groups have publicly advocated for businesses to be able to direct staff towards being vaccinated to help avoid future outbreaks and workplace disruptions, and most casual workers are clearly supportive of this, which is a positive finding for safe workplaces and business continuity in 2021,” he told HRD.

“It’s very apparent that casual workers are concerned about COVID-19 and their health at work, and that they expect their employers to step in and take charge of protecting them and others while in the workplace.

“That’s why employers must now ensure they are prioritising the fine tuning of their organisation’s position on COVID-19 vaccines.”

Read more: Retailer to pay frontline staff to get COVID vaccine

Aside from certain industries like health and agedcare, most employers will struggle to enforce mandatory vaccinations without a directive from the federal government. Under the Fair Work Act, employers can legally make a directive but it must be lawful and reasonable – which is where many employers could fall short.

Employers would have to argue that the risk of infection is high and that other measures like PPE and social distancing are ineffective. Employers also have to tread carefully to avoid breaching anti-discrimination laws by imposing a one-size-fits-all approach to vaccinations, as well as avoiding isolation and bullying of employees who may not wish to be vaccinated.

Australia’s vaccine rollout recently hit a hurdle after concerns over the AstraZeneca vaccine and potential side effects for those aged under 50. Health authorities estimate the rare blood clotting syndrome affects four to six cases per 1 million AstraZeneca vaccine recipients. As a result, Denmark is the latest country to pull the vaccine from its roll-out program.

Read more: Can employers force prospective employees to be vaccinated?

So far in Australia there have been two cases of blood clots which health authorities believe are linked to the AstaZeneca vaccine. It sparked the government to change the roll-out approach last week, advising that the Pfizer vaccine should be given to Australians aged under 50 to reduce the risk of side effects. But despite Scott Morrison’s assurances around the safety of the vaccine, it’s feared the concern will slow down the uptake of vaccinations across the country and as a result, the government’s willingness to reopen borders to the rest of the world.

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