A Far South Coast aged care worker who lost her job for refusing a flu vaccination has had her unfair dismissal claim overruled by the Fair Work Commission.
Jennifer Kimber had performed clerical duties at Imlay House in Pambula since 2008, a facility run by Sapphire Coast Community Aged Care.
In 2020 she was stood down after choosing to not have the influenza vaccination, claiming a previous flu shot had resulted in severe skin inflammation over parts of her body, including her face, which she said also resulted in an intense burning situation.
She claimed this condition lasted for 10 months and that it was a reaction caused by a flu jab received in 2016 through Sapphire Coast Community Aged Care's employee vaccination program.
In the Fair Work Commission ruling last week, April 29, it was reported Ms Kimber did not take any sick leave at the time, but instead wore "copper-infused towels as a scarf and then ice packs strapped to my neck and arms" to cover up the rash.
Commissioner Donna McKenna said while it was understood Ms Kimber's manager was aware she had some issues with her skin from time-to-time, was seeing a naturopath and trialling alternative therapies, the manager was not informed by Ms Kimber that the condition was a result of the 2016 flu shot.
"The manager's evidence was that she first learned in 2020 that the applicant attributed the condition to the 2016 flu shot," she said in her findings.
Ms McKenna pointed out the proceedings and findings were not meant to be disrespectful of Ms Kimber's choice to not be vaccinated, and that she was entitled to make that decision. Just that it was a "consideration of the employment consequences...of that personal choice".
As of May 1, 2020, aged care providers across NSW were bound by a government directive to deny entry into their facilities to anyone without proof of a current flu vaccination - this included employees as well as visitors.
Failure to comply with the ministerial directive had reported penalties of six months' imprisonment or a fine of up to $11,000 (or both) for the service operator, plus a further $5500 fine each day the offence continued.
Ms McKenna said she found Sapphire Coast Community Aged Care CEO Matt Sierp "took an objectively prudent and appropriate approach" in consideration of the directives put forward by the Chief Medical Officer and NSW Health Minister.
She also concluded that Ms Kimber's evidence did not establish her condition was the result of a reaction to the 2016 flu shot, and that her dismissal was not "harsh, unjust or unreasonable".
For those reasons, the application for unfair dismissal was dismissed.