COVID vaccine and workplace incentives

| July 8, 2021

Can employers offer incentives to their employees to get vaccinated? Sean Melbourne, Director and Head of Employment Law at Source looks at an issue that has sparked debate.

There was a lot of talk about this at Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s press conference this week. It looks like Qantas may be planning to offer frequent flyer points to employees who get vaccinated. I’ve also spoken to employers who want to offer a day off or gift vouchers to employees who get vaccinated.

The main issue with vaccination incentives is that it could create an indirect discrimination situation. If an employee can’t get vaccinated because of a protected attribute, like a physical disability or their religious beliefs, they could claim that they are unfairly disadvantaged by the policy and therefore being discriminated against.

However, it will only be indirect discrimination if the requirement to get vaccinated to access the incentive is unreasonable. I think an employee would have an uphill battle making that out at the moment. Plus, what is their loss? Missing out on a few frequent flyer points or a day off is hardly going to make for a big compensation claim.

So I think there is little risk around vaccine incentive programs. Plus, the government may introduce measures to remove these risks altogether given it seems to be on their agenda now.

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