With Greater Sydney set to open up in the coming weeks, the NSW Government proposes to introduce a ‘vaccine passport’ which will enable entry into a range of venues including restaurants, bars and sporting events for the vaccinated, and leave the unvaccinated at the door.
And Premier Berejiklian has made clear that businesses who fail to enforce the orders will face hefty fines, and even closure.
But this presents a serious predicament for business owners, leaving them exposed to backlash from the general public as well as vulnerable to potential anti-discrimination complaints.
All customer-facing businesses are grappling with at least two significant issues right now; firstly, whether to enforce their staff to be vaccinated, and secondly, how to deal with customers who are not vaccinated.
The vaccination quagmire for small business
The Federal Government has already shifted the burden of mandating vaccines in the workplace to employers, with the Prime Minister stating “[b]usinesses have a legal obligation to keep their workplaces safe and to eliminate or minimise so far as ‘reasonably practicable’ the risk of exposure to COVID-19.”
And the Fair Work Ombudsman recently set guidelines stating that businesses can set their own employee vaccination policies under its guidelines which offer a tiered system for categorising workers. Additionally, the Ombudsman advised that such direction must meet standards for lawful and reasonable action.
Of the handful of unfair dismissal cases that have made it to the Fair Work Commission over vaccine refusal, none have been decided in favour of the employee. However, there are currently several cases before the Supreme Court of New South Wales, the outcomes of which could impact the power of employers to force vaccinations on workers.