Many businesses are affected by government mandates regarding employee vaccinations or are choosing to make vaccinations compulsory for staff in the hope of minimising future disruptions and making the business environment as safe as possible for both staff and customers.
For small businesses, it’s a big task and there’s a lot to think about. Here are five questions you should ask yourself to help you effectively manage workforce vaccinations:
- Am I prepared for things to change? Uncertainty is the new normal – so planning for it is a smart move. Whatever method you adopt to track the vaccination status of employees, keep in mind that things are likely to change and it will pay off if you build as much flexibility as possible into your recordkeeping system and processes. You want to ensure records are searchable and able to be segmented by various different categories (vaccine date, vaccine type, location of employee etc) so that you can tackle ensuing ‘what ifs’. For example, what if there’s a new variant that is resistant to one of the current vaccines and a section of your workforce needs to re-vaccinate? What if booster schedules vary by vaccine type? Or what if a new government mandate only affects some employees in a particular location or client site? If you set your records up well, these developments will be easier to manage.
- Am I thinking about the future? Once you confirm the vaccination status of an employee, it’s not likely that the process will end there. Monitoring is going to be ongoing for some time as part of government roadmaps – Daniel Andrews has already stated it will be well into 2022 for Victoria. Management of booster shots will be the next phase businesses will need to manage, tracking when boosters are due for each staff member and ensuring he/she provides the relevant proof within the required timeframe.
- Have I met privacy obligations? Employers can only collect information about an employee’s vaccination status in particular circumstances where the employee consents and the collection is reasonably necessary for your workplace’s functions and activities. Make sure you only collect the information that is required and then only keep it for as long as it’s needed. Once you have collected sensitive information, the security of that information is paramount – so you need to think about where it is being stored, who has access to it and how and when it will be securely deleted. Many businesses are electing to engage a third party to collect sensitive information on their behalf, to remove some of the risks associated with this process.
- Am I communicating well with staff? As we move into this new territory, communication with employees is crucial, ensuring they are kept up to date about key developments, changes and their options. With ongoing monitoring comes regular engagement with employees, as key dates and requirements regarding vaccination approach. Much of this communication can be pre-written and automated to make the ongoing process easier, and language should be factual and respectful.
- Does the return of transient labour effect me? For those small businesses using transient labour, like those in hospitality and retail, once Visa Holiday Workers are allowed to return to Australia, workers will arrive with International Vaccination Certificates, and will also need to be managed and monitored effectively. If this will affect you, it’s a good idea to start planning now.