In case you missed it, on 11 June 2021, the Department of Employment and Labour published an amendment to the Consolidated Direction on Occupational Health and Safety Measures in Certain Workplaces (Directive), allowing a provision for employers to implement a mandatory vaccination policy in its workplace.
Employers were given 21 days in which to perform a risk assessment aimed at: establishing employer’s intentions regarding the mandatory vaccine policy (their words, not the writers … surely the intention is already clear once the risk assessment gets underway?); operational requirements to support such a decision; identify specific job functions affected; identify specific employees possibly affected (because of any aspects such as co-morbidities and age), all done under the guise of section 8 and 9 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, which places a duty on the employer to maintain a safe working environment for its employees… as far as reasonably practicable.
This directive’s over-riding intent is to give employers the ability to implement a policy which violates the rights of employees… full stop. Whether the employer follows all of the relevant guidelines, and attains all of the check points as indicated in the Directive (consultation, raising awareness, etc), the implementation of such a policy is simply, and without prejudice, a violation of employees rights. Fortunately for those who might be vaccine-adverse, there is no fool-proof way of implementing a mandatory vaccine policy as evidenced in the Directive itself, as long as all of the requirements are followed.
How so? Step 4 of the mandatory vaccination policy, includes the right to refuse the vaccination on constitutional or medical grounds.
Where there is smoke, there is fire … or is there? Fact: individuals may be a-symptomatic while being positive for Covid-19. Fact: the vaccine does not offer 100% protection from the virus. So, if, in this scenario, the fire is Covid and the smoke is the solution to its transmission at work (through the implementation of a mandatory vaccine policy), it becomes clear that there is not a real solution to the problem and therefore implementing a such a policy is simply an egregious violation of one’s constitutional rights (the list of violations is a long one).
Let us agree then, that this discussion is just a smokescreen which tries to conceal the reality of vaccinations and that is, there are no impermeable conditions under which it is legal to implement such a policy and the proof of this is in the Directive itself as it allows for the right to refuse. Employees who do not wish to have the vaccine may not be forced to do so.
Realistically, if the vaccine was fool-proof and offered 100% certainty against transmission and infection, then we can concede that there are some workplace environments which may benefit from the implementation of such a policy, most obvious being the medical industry and any industry working with the aged. We would all love to believe that there is some protection against the virus and that lives would no longer be lost because of its transmission. The fact is that this is impossible and so we must continue to wear our masks, sanitise regularly and practice social distancing as much as physically possible, both inside and outside of the workplace. The virus is difficult enough to manage. Let’s not make things worse by adding insult to injury… as far as reasonably practicable.