Businesses are having to address complex ethical questions about the extent to which a person’s vaccination status should be a condition of employment.

Here are some guidelines to consider:

1. There is a difference between a mandatory requirement (where there is no choice) and a condition of employment (which people can choose to meet as they think best).

Many jobs impose conditions of employment that relate to a person’s health status (including whether or not they have been vaccinated).

2. Respect and promote the maximum degree of freedom of employees – limited only by what is required to meet one’s obligations to others.

In determining this it’s important to consider:

  • The nature of any duties owed to other people – including employees, customers, and members of the community more generally.
  • The specific context within which people will come into contact with your employees e.g. frequency, proximity, location – and estimate the way these variables shape ‘the risk envelope’.

3. Determine if a legitimate authority (e.g. a government) has made any rules.

This includes Legislation, regulation, public health orders, etc. that determine how the business must act. For example, governments may set license conditions that ‘tie the hands’ of specific employers.

4. Actively seek alternative means by which employees might perform their roles, even if they are not vaccinated.

Note, alternatives must be practical and affordable.

5. Determine who bears the burden (including the cost) of alternative measures.

For example, should employees who choose not to be vaccinated be required to be masked, or to use rapid antigen testing at their expense?

6. Consider how roles might be reassigned amongst the unvaccinated.

With priority given to those with medical exemptions.

7. Treat every person with respect – ensuring that no person is ridiculed or marginalised because of their choice.

But note that respect for one person or group does not entail agreement with their position; nor does it void one’s obligations to others or your right, as an employer, to advance your own interests.

8. Be prepared to adjust your own position in response to changing circumstances.

Including evidence based on the latest medical research relating to vaccine safety and efficacy, etc.


Read more on the difference between compulsory and conditional requirements here.