COVID Vax - to mandate or not to mandate?

I've had the privilege of speaking with many HR Leaders in the last few weeks who are helping their organisations to navigate the current complexity that the pandemic has thrown our way…

The debate about the mandatory COVID Vax. 


There is case law happening already and legal battles are and will be, raging in Australian industrial commission offices and courts across the land. We know that our rights as business leaders to mandate certain things in our business are supported by legislation.  

But what about the COVID vax? 


There are of course legal issues to navigate from are we able to require people to be vaccinated prior to working on-site and can we ask our customers and contractors to be vaccinated before coming onsite? To what happens if someone gets COVID and we haven't mandated vaccinations? Are we liable? 

The current legal advice around this is varied and dependant on the circumstance, mostly its centred around - is it reasonable to expect someone to be vaccinated to protect the health and safety of our people and our clients? However, because every industry has various risks and circumstances that may prevent or require vaccination. Our advice to you is to get legal advice for you and your business.   

Our decision has been made relatively simple for us. We consult with many businesses here in South Australia and interstate. Two of our big clients are BHP and SA Health, both of which have mandated double vaccination for COVID19 to be eligible to access their sites.  

We also want to ensure that our people are safe and well.  


I personally have chosen to vaccinate, for a few reasons. One, I and other members of my family have compromised immune systems so therefore the health risk of being unvaccinated is obvious to me. Two, as a small business owner I want to ensure our business is able to be sustainable into the future and the current uncertainty of the government's response to COVID lockdowns is not tenable. The last reason is… I want to travel.  

I've chosen to vaccinate, and I'm not an advocate for vaccinations. I'm an advocate for 'your body, your choice'. I firmly believe in the right of every person to choose what they wish to do with their bodies. Get piercings, go for it. Get tattoos, go for. Make a choice about to have a child or not, complete support your right to choose. And vaccinations, up to you. 

 And with everything, there are consequences with choice. If I choose to get face tattoos and a lot of body piercings I can be confident that a consequence of my choice is not being able to get a customer-facing role in a conservative organisation. My body, my choice. Your business, your choice. You choose the behaviour, you choose the consequence.


Many businesses and venues are choosing to mandate COVID vaccination. I understand why they are doing that and support their choice. I also support the choice of people to remain unvaccinated.  

What baffles me is the choices that are made without thinking about consequences and without reasonable evidence. This is where good change leadership is required in our society to help the fence-sitters to make a clear decision for themselves. At the moment, the direction from the government is quite clear… if we don't hit 80-90% vaccinated (depending on the state) then the borders will remain closed.   

The government has not mandated vaccinations for the entire population. It has only mandated high-risk positions and environments. We all still have a choice. However, we also have a goal to reach together. If we want the borders open, and we want to go back to some semblance of normal business and life, as usual, we have a choice to make.


Businesses who are mandating vaccinations will obviously have to navigate the myriad of legal land mines that will start being laid. I just hope that they don't forget the human element of this significant change. Here are a few quick tips:


- Increase communication (i.e.: dialogue and conversation) to understand people's choices and their understanding of the consequences.
- Increase the access to good evidence-based information about vaccinations.

- Stay out of judgement and remember a time when you were forced to do something you didn't want to do.
- Step into the shoes of the other and think from their perspective.


There is no need for arguments or conflict around this subject. Instead, it’s a great opportunity to display your ability to balance individual compassion and great good decisions.   

If you need help with navigating the changes occurring as a result of the COVID response please let us know at and one of our change experts can help.