Do employers have a right to know if an employee has been vaccinated?
In the absence of a contractual obligation in employment agreements, the short answer is no. Even with a contractual obligation to disclose this information, there is no exception in our current privacy laws that would allow an employer access to this information without employee consent.
Hiring new staff
Is it reasonable for an employer to ask if a potential employee has been vaccinated? With little guidance under the current law, the answer may depend on the industry. Understandably in some circumstances employers are unlikely to want to risk introducing an unvaccinated staff member into their workplace.
Employers have a duty to provide a safe working environment for their employees. If a workplace comprises mostly of older workers with existing health conditions, then should it be lawful for an employer to refuse to employ someone who has not been vaccinated? On the other hand, will unvaccinated people, even those with legitimate reasons to avoid vaccination such as those with chronic allergies, find it difficult to find employment and face unfair discrimination?
Legislative guidance is needed to address the uncertainty. In the meantime, employers will need to be careful about how they communicate with their staff about vaccinations to avoid discrimination or privacy complaints and should consider including clauses in their employment contracts relating to vaccination and disclosure obligations where appropriate.