WIMMERA businesses are coming to terms with new rules around workplace vaccinations announced by the state government in early October.
From Friday, workers can continue to work on-site if they show proof of a vaccination booking before October 22.
From October 22, authorised workers in more than 30 industries will have to have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, or have a valid medical exemption, to continue to work on-site, and be fully vaccinated by November 26.
Many businesses will now have to consider letting unvaccinated workers go, or risk having to shut down the business itself.
One such business in the Wimmera was Kaniva's Heartfelt Cafe, which has made the decision to close its doors due to the vaccine mandate.
Heartfelt co-owner Mandy Falting said the business had unvaccinated staff members and refused to enforce the proof of vaccination requirement.
"We have made the decision to shut down because we don't really support mandatory vaccination," she said.
"We can't be open unless all of the staff are vaccinated or have proof of vaccination and that is not the case, we are not enforcing that so we have to close.
"I don't think it is our role to be policing people and keeping people out of our shop."
Ms Falting said the business owners hoped vaccines would become voluntary, but in the meantime would cease to operate.
"I recognise that it is really difficult for the government to make decisions to keep people safe, but I also recognise that there is an issue with what has been happening in the country as opposed to the city. One blanket rule for everyone is not appropriate," she said.
"I hope it is not the end for the cafe. We are very sad for this to be closing because we consider it a hub for the community and we really enjoy providing a space for the community to come together.
"I would prefer people to have the choice as to whether they decide to be vaccinated or not. I think people are allowed to do their own research into it.
"We are told to trust science all the time. I think everybody can look as deeply into that as they want to and come to their own decision."
West Vic Business ambassador Stacy Taig said the new mandate has put owners in a challenging position.
"It has put people in a really tricky situation. There are long-term, excellent staff - part of the family - who for their own personal reasons do not want to be vaccinated," she said.
"That puts business owners in a really emotional a precarious situation."
Ms Taig said it was important to remember the new rules were imposed on businesses by the government, and asked the public not to blame business owners for enforcing the mandate.
"Our hope is that the wider community stop before they act and really consider the fact that this is not a mandate that has been put in place by businesses, this is a mandate that has been put in place by the government," she said.
"The onus is on the business owners to bare the brunt of people's frustrations.
" In terms of dealing with staff and their personal beliefs, refer them through to Legal Aid Victoria, there is an office on Darlot Street, or through to the Victorian Ombudsman.
"That just takes the onus off of the business owner then. It is someone else telling them unfortunately, from a legal standpoint you wither have the vaccination or you are no longer able to be on site."
Lowan member Emma Kealy said her Horsham office has fielded many calls from concerned community members belonging to businesses, clubs and volunteer organisations.
"Businesses, service providers and many other organisations are incredibly concerned about the legal ramifications come Friday should they have to make decisions around unvaccinated workers," she said.
"But instead of supporting businesses and preparing them to handle the added responsibility of enforcing the vaccine mandate, the government has threatened them with fines of up to $110,000 if they don't comply and left them to figure things out alone.
"People in our region want to do the right thing, but the government has not provided any clarity for employers who are worried about privacy, unfair dismissal and what unvaccinated workers are entitled to receive.
"Without any sort of legal framework, businesses feel extremely vulnerable to legal action, which is just another source of stress from a government that shows an incredible lack of understanding."
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