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JobWatch Featured on ABC

JobWatch was featured on ABC on 6 October 2021, commenting on a spike in calls to our TIS related to vaccination after the Victorian government's COVID-19 vaccine mandate announcement.

October 06, 2021

A not-for-profit community legal centre that provides free employment advice said it had experienced a spike in calls related to vaccination after the Victorian government’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate announcement.

JobWatch, which is based in Victoria, operates a free telephone service offering advice to workers.

The service helps about 16,500 a year, and usually receives a few hundred calls each week.

Executive director Zana Bytheway said two-thirds of the people calling the service over the past few days had been asking about the vaccine mandate.

She said the advice those people were offered might differ but, generally, the service had to explain the mandate did mean people could lose their jobs.

“Basically, we say that employers don’t have a choice but to exclude employees from these workplaces and the employees’ inability to work means that they’re probably not entitled to be paid,” she said.

“Sometimes it may justify termination.

“Of course, medical exemptions do apply, but they’ve got to be real medical exemptions.”

Ms Bytheway said employees being granted a medical exemption was rare.

She also said that, before an employer dismissed someone for being unvaccinated and without a valid exemption, they may need to consider reasonable alternatives, such as paid or unpaid leave, or enabling the employee to work from home.

After industry-specific vaccine mandates were introduced for residential aged care, construction and education there were correlating spikes in demand to JobWatch from people working in those areas.

Ms Bytheway said some common questions from people calling up included those wanting advice from a medical specialist before getting vaccinated who were unable to get an appointment before the deadline, and people who were asking if they could present other evidence for a medical exemption in lieu of documentation from a doctor.

“Essentially, the fundamental principle is you need to be vaccinated under these mandates to attend the workplace unless you’ve got an authorised exemption,” she said.

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