RURAL employers may be able to refuse to employ or engage anyone who has not had been vaccinated for coronavirus, according to the updated National Farmers Federation’s COVID-19 Workplace Guide released this week.
Employers may also direct a potential employee to get vaccinated before hiring them, the guide advises.
The guide advises employers to be careful not to breach laws which affect hiring, e.g. human rights and anti-discrimination laws, adverse action and general protections, etc.
“They should also be mindful of the rollout and availability of the vaccines.
“If an employer has a legal right to direct an employee to get vaccinated then they may require an employee to provide evidence of their vaccination status, but not otherwise,” the guide says.
Based on advice from the Fair Work Office, the guide advises that in limited circumstances an employer may be able to direct employee to get the vaccine. The guide also says that an employer can incentivise their workers to get vaccinated “provided (generally speaking) the incentive is legal, does not direct an employee to a particular type of vaccine, and does not discriminate in respect to the persons who are entitled.”
The guide was first released in April 2020 and contains practical information relating to, for example, quarantine requirements for new workers, social distancing at work and financial support as well as work health and safety and industrial relations considerations.
NFF President Fiona Simson said farmers and farm workers have a responsibility to keep themselves, their team and their communities safe.
“Employers also have legal obligations and the NFF COVID-19 Workforce Guide is a valuable first point of reference as to how these responsibilities relate to preventing the spread of COVID-19.”
She said the document had been updated to reflect the most up-to-date health guidelines and changes in the understanding of the virus and how it’s spread. Also included is a section on vaccinations.
“Vaccination is the key to all parts of Australian life returning to normal, including agriculture.
“The NFF continues to support the roll out of the vaccine and encourages eligible farmers and workers to get vaccinated as a matter of priority,” Ms Simson said.
“As employers, farmers have an important role to play in facilitating vaccination for their workers.
“The guide now includes practical information on what steps employers can take to encourage vaccine uptake in their workforce.”
The NFF said it has written to National Cabinet this week again calling for a national approach to border crossings.
Ms Simson said as a starting point all states should adopt the National Agricultural Workers Code.
“At its next meeting, National Cabinet must affirm the essential nature of food and fibre production and take action to recognise this.
“Farmers are committed to doing their bit to keep their families, workers and at-risk communities safe,” she said.
“Especially in peak times, farmers need certainty so we can keep doing what we do best – keeping supermarket shelves stocked, supporting rural communities and powering the national economy.”
To download a copy of the NFF COVID-19 Workplace Guide, click here.