Doctors, community groups, governments and parents have recently been caught up in the debate about the need for greater immunisation. So, what role do employers and their workers have?

Immunisation

It is reported that the majority of Australians support immunisation and recognise its health benefits. Indeed, some occupations are at high risk of vaccine preventable diseases. Immunisation is commonly considered to be the most effective way of controlling those risks for everyone in the workplace. Health workers, child care workers, tradespeople and labourers may be at risk of vaccine preventable diseases due to the potential hazards in their work environments. While each individual needs to be vigilant about the risk of infection both in the workplace and in their private lives, Councils and other employers have significant legal responsibilities to people in their workplaces.

Managing the risks

In some circumstances, proper management of a Council’s work health and safety obligations may mean requiring workers to be immunised. Whether Council can legitimately do this is a question that needs to be answered in the individual circumstances: What are the vaccine preventable diseases the worker might be exposed to? Who could the worker place at risk, other than themselves? What is the cost of immunisation? Could there be discriminatory outcomes? Should you mandate immunisation or just strongly recommend it? What will you do if there is an outbreak in the workplace?

Understanding the issue

Doctors strongly argue that the benefits of immunisation far outweigh the risks but the question for Councils and employers is: What risks is your organisation exposed to with an unimmunised workforce and do you have the ability to take control of this issue?