Vaccine mandates - rights and obligations for employers and employees

I have been holding off writing anything about Covid vaccination mandates in the hope that the legal position would become clearer. At this time we have only received government guidance but not the confirmed legislation. As I write this article on Friday 22 October 2021 it has not become clearer but hopefully I can give some broad guidance.


If your employer tells you that you must be vaccinated or you will be dismissed then my advice is to not resign. There is going to be a huge difference between employees who work in industries where the government legislates that you must have a vaccination (for example Customs or the Health and Disability sector) and employees who work for employers who decide that health and safety concerns require all current employees have to be vaccinated .

Do not just get the pip and resign. Do not ignore the opportunity given to you by the employer to have input into the decision. (Take note employers - you need to follow due process). Explain your reason for not wanting to vaccinate but to be to be honest, a fear that the vaccine has a tracking device in it is not going to help your cause. For example you could say that you are concerned about possible long term effects. Or you are in contact with vulnerable people during your work - if it were me I would go out and purchase a genuine medical grade mask and offer to wear that at work. The more you are sensibly involved and the more that you explain to the employer your concerns and reasons for not vaccinating, the better it will be for you if you end up in front of the Employment Relations Authority challenging your termination.


It’s really difficult out there. There will be many of you who are waiting for the government’s legislation in relation to who must be vaccinated. That has not at the time of this article’s writing come into force. Once it comes into force then (and only then in our view) should policies and procedures in relation to this be finalised. Even if the Government says that you cannot employ unvaccinated people in certain roles you are still going to need to consider such things as re-deployment and whether they have become redundant .

There will be many employers who will not be covered by the legislation and will have to deal with issues on a health and safety basis.

My strong advice is to “breathe” before you terminate individuals for refusing to be vaccinated. It is not going to be a straightforward process or procedure. You will need to conduct a fair process, consult and will need to justify their termination. Just as Covid did not erase the rules of employment law during lock down neither does the legitimate goal of having as many people vaccinated as possible override individuals rights that exist both under employment law and many other statutes.

As the law becomes clearer I will try and update readers. Keep safe.

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