Small business groups say any proposal for paid vaccination leave for casuals should not require employers to give staff time off to get vaccinated.
Alexi Boyd, acting chief executive of the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia (COSBOA), says the vaccine rollout must not place additional burdens on small businesses, whether that includes time taken getting employees vaccinated or leave compliance.
“The focus needs to be on the accessibility of vaccines rather than imposing another requirement on small business owners to make sure they’re opening up availabilities in their business for employees to get vaccinated,” Boyd tells SmartCompany.
“Is this a burden for small business to own in terms of time, or a burden for other parts of economic productivity to own?” she says.
On Thursday, unions proposed the Morrison government to fund paid vaccination leave for insecure workers.
The Australian Council for Trade Unions (ACTU) suggested the federal government prioritise aged-care and disability support sector workers, offering four days’ paid leave to staff to get vaccinated and recover from any side effects.
In time, the ACTU plans to advocate for other insecure workers to receive the same support.
According to the ACTU, the absence of paid leave will affect the speed of vaccination uptake in sectors that are in crisis.
While risks related to COVID-19 in the private aged-care and disability support sectors are higher than in other industries, Boyd says COSBOA’s vaccine stance is one of encouragement rather than enforcement.
“When it comes to vaccinations, we’ve always had the stance that we would like to see an encouragement approach rather than an enforcement one,” she says.
“It almost needs to be taken on a case-by-case basis, rather than looking entirely at the whole small business community.”
Accessibility is key
Boyd says the federal and state governments have a responsibly to ensure vaccines are easily accessible to workers in all types of industries and locations.
“When we’re looking at approaches for mandating these things, we have to remember that it’s a good idea for governments to be thinking of small businesses with an individualistic approach,” she says.
“The most important thing is that we have access to vaccines at a time that is convenient for both the worker and business owner.”
Boyd says vaccines should be available in a wide range of locations, and at convenient times of the day.
“And, that may be after hours, in the evening, or on the weekends,” she says.