The world changed in the blink of an eye with the emergence of COVID-19. Entire businesses packed up their desks and adapted to a remote way of working with technology at the forefront. Zoom calls, Trello boards and MS Teams became the new normal as the world was forced to adjust. If there’s anything that 2021 has taught us, it’s the need to be agile.

As we begin to return to a regular or hybrid in-person work environment, a new consideration is once again forcing employers to remain nimble and responsive. “What are your policies on vaccination?” seems to be a common question for employers Australia-wide. But how do you approach this sensitive subject? And how do you ensure you recognise the concerns of your employees?

Here’s our top pieces of advice for navigating vaccine mandates as an employer.

1. Understand Your Local Laws

First and foremost, you should stay up to date with the evolving government laws and regulations.

When it comes to broaching the subject of COVID-19 vaccination, it’s important that you have a clear understanding of which rules apply to your business. You may find that this information gives you a good starting point for forming your business’ approach..

If you’re looking for regulation resources, the Australian Fair Work Ombudsman has put together guidelines for COVID-19 vaccinations: workplace rights and obligations. If you’re in New South Wales like us, you can check out the state’s webpage detailing vaccination requirements for workers.

2. Consult Your Employees

If you find that vaccination rules do not apply to your particular business or industry, take the time to consult with your employees and receive their feedback.

There is no denying the current labour shortage in Australia, with ongoing discussion on the difficulty of recruiting and retaining talent, including Data and Analytics professionals. It’s possible that creating a mandatory vaccination program may be an obstacle to recruiting quality talent that don’t want the vaccination. On the other hand, we’re also hearing stories about employees looking to resign unless their employers implement a mandatory vaccination program.

Putting a survey out and gauging the temperature of your team members may assist with formulating your business’ approach to vaccination.

3. Engage in One-on-One Conversations

If you have a team member or two who remains hesitant to be vaccinated, it’s important to find out their concerns before making any assumptions. By engaging in open and honest conversation, you’ll be able to weigh up all points of view – including any possible medical considerations that may need to be taken into account.

In a best-case scenario, you may be able to find a solution that leaves you both satisfied. It is up to you whether that solution is encouraging them to receive the jab, figuring out a remote working situation, redefining their role, or something completely out of the box.

Remember that COVID-19 has permanently changed the global working environment, so be open to new solutions and innovations. Employers who are unable to offer a degree of flexibility in the current climate will often find it more challenging to retain and attract the best workers.

4. Seek External Advice

With the regulations evolving so rapidly, it can feel like a full-time job just to stay on top of the changing COVID-19 landscape. As an employer, it’s so important to know when to ask for help.

Depending on the circumstances, this could mean speaking to an employment law expert, as employers can only mandate the COVID-19 vaccination in a workplace if it is lawful and reasonable. It could also include discussing a hiring strategy with a specialist recruitment agency, like the Data and Analytics recruitment team here at Continuum Recruitment Solutions.

Don’t forget that your time is valuable – and in some instances, it’s better to call for help than continue to fight an uphill battle.

5. Discuss the Implications with Your Leadership Team

Critical decisions about the business should be carefully contemplated by your leadership team. A comprehensive brainstorming session might be helpful to look at the overall implications of a vaccination policy or mandate. While the 9-5 office day might be the most affected, try not to look at it in isolation. Ask other questions, too, so you can establish a position.

Some questions that may be worth asking include:

  • How will you approach an unvaccinated employee who cannot attend work celebrations at a restaurant or bar?
  • Do you have employees that are likely to leave the business if you choose to mandate vaccinations?
  • Do you have vulnerable employees who may feel unsafe or leave if they’re working in the same office as an unvaccinated worker?
  • What measures can you take to ensure your employees feel safe in the workplace?
  • How do you maintain a healthy team culture, despite the uncertainty with the COVID-19 vaccine employment situation?

6. Release Any Finalised Mandates in Writing

If you decide that a mandatory program is the way to go for your business, be sure that you formalise it in writing and distribute it to all employees and future candidates. Having your position in writing gives all parties an opportunity to raise their hand and self-identify as someone who may need consideration or accommodation.

7. Store Employee Vaccination Safely

If your business goes ahead with a vaccine mandate, make sure you take every practicable measure to protect the vaccination status information of your employees. Recent guidance from the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner for employers covered by the Privacy Act 1988 states that employers should only collect and use information about the vaccination status of their employees in very limited circumstances and should only collect the minimum amount of information necessary to maintain a safe workplace.

Employees should take care in ensuring confidentiality and security of all employee health information, including their vaccination status.

So, What Does This Mean for My Business?

Employees will need to make their own decisions about what is right for them, just like you as an employer will need to make decisions about what is right for the longevity and sustainability of your business (unless you fall within a specific government mandate).

If you have questions about how vaccine mandates might work for your business or the implications for hiring, the team at Continuum Recruitment Solutions would be happy to help. As Sydney’s specialist Data and Analytics recruitment agency, our results-driven team of experienced recruiters provide excellent advice and services tailored to your business’ unique requirements. Contact us today.