Editorial: Business and buyers beware

Filed in Just In by October 11, 2021

UNDER the reopening rules businesses must take all reasonable steps to ensure customers are vaccinated, but while most businesses may be worried about what that means in terms of a fine from police, they also need to be aware customers could sue them under workplace occupational health and safety laws, especially if that customer becomes seriously ill. If the customer passes away as a result of contracting the disease from their business, then the matter could also be referred to the coroner. 

There have been many cases brought before the courts arguing that not serving unvaccinated customers is discriminatory, but all cases have been unsuccessful to date. Discrimination as a legal term, applies to age, race, gender, disability or sexual orientation because they are all things people can’t change about themselves. In contrast, having a vaccination is a choice.

There are people and businesses who have decided not to require their staff and customers to be vaccinated, in these cases it could be very easy to prove they have not taken all reasonable steps to protect immunosuppressed customers from the virus in their business.

Most people who are vaccinated and contract the virus will be fine, but there are still people in our community who are immunosuppressed or who are medically unable to have the vaccine and are now trying to weigh how they can return to life as normal, while avoiding high risk scenarios.

People who are immunosuppressed, or may be living with someone who is, may not want to have lunch at a business where the staff making their food are unvaccinated or where the majority of customers are unvaccinated.

While anyone can pass on the virus, people who are vaccinated have a much lower viral load than people who are unvaccinated and the viral load is one important variable in how ill a person may become with the virus. The higher the viral load passed to someone the more unwell they may become; so for immunosuppressed people this can be important to know.

But, because businesses may be worried about being fined for not complying with public health orders, businesses are unlikely to inform customers they have staff and customers who are unvaccinated and for people who are immunosuppressed it means they can’t make an informed choice about which businesses are safest for them. 

The only way immunosuppressed people may be able to assess the risk is to observe if the business has asked them for their vaccination status, if they don’t, then there’s a good chance they are not asking other people either.

For people who are genuinely taking “all reasonable measures” to ensure their business is safe for people who are immunosuppressed, by adhering to the health orders, then the risk of being liable under workplace health and safety is likely to also be negated.

There are some businesses who have decided to breach the health orders, but have advertised with banners on their premises that they will not comply and at least they have done the right thing by people who are immunosuppressed, they have informed them they are not complying and have allowed all customers to make an informed choice.

But for businesses who aren’t complying with the health orders, if they also aren’t making it known to their customers, they are taking away informed consent and the right for their customers to choose and a fine or a law suit should be the least of their concerns. 

If they are placing avoiding a fine, or profits above the safety of their customers, most coroners don’t look too kindly on those business owners.

Buyers and businesses beware…

 

 

Elizabeth Flaherty
Editor, scone.com.au

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