When Emily* got a text from her boss urging her to get vaccinated, she was surprised only by his reasoning. The owner at her casual café gig wanted all of his staff vaccinated so he didn’t have to ‘bother’ about staff getting tested and isolating after going to an exposure site.
‘Getting vaccinated doesn’t mean you can’t get Covid,’ she said, ‘I don’t know if he doesn’t know that, or he just doesn’t care. He’s taken staff off the roster for getting tested and having to isolate before.’
Now that we’re coming close to the end of lockdown restrictions, a lot of us are preparing to head back to work and face the other pandemic: sh*tty bosses.
From ignoring capacity limits, workers being mocked by their boss for wearing masks, and bosses letting favoured customers skip the QR check-in – we’ve heard it all. So if you’re in this position, here’s what you can do to make sure your workplace is observing Covid-19 safety measures?
What rights do you have?
We’ll save you the jargon, but basically, your boss has a legal obligation to provide a safe workplace under the OH&S Act (2004). This means physical and mental hazards and failure to provide a safe workplace is an offence.
More importantly, under the Act, when your boss is making a decision about staff safety (meaning, how to enforce the Covid-19 restrictions), they have a duty to consult staff. So if your boss tells you that you’ll be at the door checking QR codes, social distancing or even vaccine passports, you’re allowed to turn it into a conversation about how your safety will be protected against the virus, as well as the agitated and angry anti-vax customers that a lot of us will be responsible for facing.
How do you stand up for these rights?
Being a lone agitator for better workplace safety measures can sometimes put a target on your back, so it’s always better to try to take action collectively.
Start by talking to your co-workers. If you’re annoyed about your workplace, it’s pretty likely that other people are too.
If you want advice on how to set up safety measures as workers, you should chat to your relevant Union. They can help you organise with your co-workers and even help you elect an Occupational Health and Safety rep, who is a staff member who has special powers to take action on safety, including even ordering a 'cease work' if worker’s safety is at risk.
Where can I go for help or clarification?
If you want to get some clarification on this article or if you have a workplace issue, you can contact us here at the Young Workers Centre: https://www.youngworkers.org.au/contact
If you want to know what union covers you, head here: https://www.australianunions.org.au/about-unions/which-is-the-union-for-you/
And if you want to read up on the laws, head to the Worksafe website here: https://www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/occupational-health-and-safety-act-and-regulations
*Name has been changed for privacy.