Can you force your staff to get the COVID-19 vaccination?

Salon owners have an obvious reason to want their staff to be vaccinated – by protecting themselves and their clients, it’s the strongest way to ensure their business remains open.  But is a salon owners really able to insist their staff receive the injection?

While it’s a pretty ambiguous legal question, previous cases could point to ‘yes’. In 2020, two cases were presented to the Fair Work Commission, both involving employers making the flu vaccine a requirement of employment, with those refusing the jab being shown the door.

In both cases – one involving a childcare worker and the other an assistant in an aged care facility – it was deemed that the request for staff to be vaccinated was in keeping with the business owners’ responsibility to maintain their duty of care to others within their establishment. Their decision to terminate the contracts of the staff members was upheld.

“It’s a tricky one, and certainly something that should be assessed case by case,” says business expert James King. “On the one hand, you are within your rights to want to keep your staff, clients and business safe. But on the other hand, there is the argument that people have a right to decide if they want to be vaccinated. Do you have authority over their decision to vaccinate or not?”

Given that beauty is a high-touch industry, the case for vaccination could be strong. But, according to James, bringing in a ‘no jab, no work’ policy is something you should also discuss with your employees. “It’s easy to put the policy in place for future staff members. If they don’t like it, they don’t need to accept the job. But with current staff, it’s a conversation you need to have. Chances are they’ll be happy to be vaccinated. But if they’re not – and some may not even be able to for medical reasons – I would suggest getting some sound advice before making a call on their employment.”

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