Minister for Industrial Relations, Michaelia Cash, today led a virtual roundtable discussion with around 50 leaders from unions, employer groups and government to discuss the COVID-19 vaccination rollout in workplaces.
Minister Cash described the meeting as positive, saying it was pleasing to see employer groups and unions come together in the spirit of co-operation.
“It was clear from the discussion that participants are united in the goal to have as many Australians as possible vaccinated against COVID-19,” the Ms Cash said.
Minister Cash reiterated the Australian Government’s position that vaccination is free and voluntary, unless a state or territory public health order is in place.
“The Australian Government’s position of voluntary vaccination does not detract from individual employers seeking their own advice and mandating for their workforce if they have assessed that it is the right decision for them,” she said.
At the roundtable, the Fair Work Ombudsman presented on recently released updated guidance on COVID-19 vaccinations and the workplace to assist employers and workers in determining their approach to vaccination.
Minister Cash said there was strong support for the positive role businesses and unions can play in supporting workers to get vaccinated.
She said participants agreed to work together to develop a work plan, in consultation with all relevant sectors.
Providing easy access to vaccines was identified as a priority, through both increased points of contact in the rollout, and businesses making it as easy as possible for workers to get vaccinated. There was also a clear, strong call for consistency in state and territory approaches to public health orders and regulating work health and safety, the Minister said.
She said the Government had encouraged employers and employees to work together when it comes to COVID-19 vaccination.
“Cooperation is critical and all businesses are encouraged, no matter what vaccination policy they are considering, to consult closely with their workers about managing the risk of COVID-19 in the workplace.”
Attendees at the roundtable included the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Michael Kidd; Fair Work Ombudsman Ms Sandra Parker; the Australian Information and Privacy Commissioner, Ms Angelene Falk; and CEO of Safe Work Australia, Michelle Baxter, who answered questions about rights and obligations under employment, privacy and work health and safety laws.