If an employer has a legitimate need to know, it can ask an employee if they have been vaccinated for Covid-19 so long as the information is collected, stored and disclosed in accordance with the Privacy Act.

When can an employer ask about an employee’s vaccination status?

Any discussions regarding an employee’s vaccination status must be held in good faith. If such discussions do occur, an employee may choose not to tell their employer if they have been vaccinated, or why they are unable or unwilling to be vaccinated.

The outcomes of these discussions and any information disclosed regarding vaccination will be considered the employee’s personal information.

If employers undertake a health and safety risk assessment, and as a result require vaccination for a particular role, they may then ask employees in that role about their vaccination status in order to comply with health and safety requirements.

If vaccination is required for a particular role and is included within an employment agreement, disclosure will be necessary in accordance with any terms contained in the agreement. Any disclosure that is required must be obtained in line with the Privacy Act. This information will be considered the employee’s personal information.

Additionally, employers cannot insist their individual employees are vaccinated due to their right to refuse to undergo medical treatment. Note that asking about vaccination status is different to being able to require that only a vaccinated employee can undertake certain work. For more information on whether an employer can require employees to be vaccinated.

Can a potential employer ask about an interviewee’s vaccination status?

If an advertised role requires vaccination to fulfil health and safety requirements, then an employer may ask candidates for their vaccination status during a job interview. Again, this information will be considered the interviewee’s personal information.

How does the Privacy Act apply?

It is important to remember that an employee’s vaccination status is personal information so the Privacy Act applies.

Employers must collect, store, and disclose personal information in accordance with the Act. For instance, the information cannot be disclosed to other employees and the information cannot be used for any other employment purpose unless consent is given. Employee’s rights to access such information must also be respected.

Some circumstances where an employer may be able to disclose an employee’s vaccination status include when consent is given by the employee, or sharing the information is necessary to prevent or lessen a serious threat to public health and safety.

If there are uncertainties about employee vaccination or an employer requiring only a vaccinated employee to carry out a particular role, it is wise to speak with a professional experienced in the area.

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