In brief 3 min read
The Fair Work Commission has issued a Statement outlining the steps taken by BHP's Mt Arthur Coal to further consult with employees about a requirement that they be fully vaccinated to access the site.
- Employers seeking to implement COVID-19 vaccination requirements must ensure employees are properly consulted.
- Employers should consider the guidance offered by the Statement in respect of proper consultation about such requirements.
In October 2021, Mt Arthur Coal directed employees to be fully vaccinated by 31 January 2022 as a condition of site entry. The union challenged the requirement and on 3 December 2021 the Full Bench of the Fair Work Commission determined that the requirement was not reasonable because the consultation process was not in accordance with the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (NSW).
The Full Bench offered the Commission's assistance in respect of the dispute, which the parties took up. In addition, Mt Arthur Coal further consulted about the site access requirement. The further consultation included providing a document summarising the safety and health rationale for the requirement, setting up an intranet hub with relevant materials, toolbox talks, meetings with employees and responding in writing to matters raised by employees, meetings with the union and considering material provided by the union, responding in writing to matters raised by the union, and meetings with HSE committees and responding in writing to matters raised in those meetings.
Following the further consultation, Mr Arthur Coal considered all the material available to it and decided to introduce the site access requirement.
On 17 December 2021, despite objections from the union, the Commission issued a Statement describing the consultation process, which it described as a 'significant endeavour'.
In issuing the Statement, the Commission noted the considerable interest in the matter from third parties and that it would serve the public interest to issue a statement setting out the further consultation that had occurred following the Full Bench's decision.