Update to Victorian mandatory vaccination requirements
On 1 October 2021, the Victorian Government announced that all ‘Authorised Workers’ would be required to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in order to remain working.
On 8 October 2021, the Victorian Government released the much-awaited Mandatory Vaccination (Workers) Directions (the Direction) which sit alongside existing health directions issued for workers in the health, construction, aged care and education sectors.
This update summarises the key impacts on employers and the steps employers should take. It is a ‘must read’ for all Victorian employers.
Who is captured?
As prescribed by Clause 9 of the Direction, the following workers must receive at least their first dose of a COVID-19 Vaccine, if they are required to work away from their usual place of residence:
- Accommodation workers (hotels, B&B’s, hostels, AirBnB hosts and campgrounds);
- Agricultural and forestry workers (farmers, lab technicians, pounds, transportation and distribution, food safety, production of firewood, pallets, building supplies for construction)
- Ancillary, support and welfare workers (hotel quarantine employees, FIFO, maritime crew and employment services)
- Care and Community workers
- Higher education workers
- Manufacturing workers
- Professional services (law and finance)
- Public service
- Real estate workers
- Repair and maintenance workers (laundry and dry cleaning, car washing, locksmiths, commercial cleaning, roadside assistance, outdoor maintenance repairs and cleaning)
- Retail workers (shopping centre, petrol station, post office, supermarkets, click and collect)
- Social and community service workers (disability services, child protection, family violence and sexual assault, homelessness support, mental health support)
- Transport workers (bus company, Ubers, taxi’s, public transport services)
- Utilities workers
*this list is not exhaustive, see the Direction for the full list
What do employers need to do?
If employers have workers that fall into any of the above categories, then they must:
- Collect, record and hold vaccination information for all workers who may be scheduled to work outside their ordinary place of residence on or after 15 October 2021;
- Collect booking information if the worker is partially vaccinated – if this is available;
- If a worker is unvaccinated, collect information about whether that worker has a booking to receive the vaccination by the first dose deadline that will cause them to meet the ‘partially vaccinated’ definition;
- comply with the collection requirements as soon as reasonably practicable after the commencement of the Directions;
- ensure unvaccinated workers do not work outside ordinary place of residence:
- no unvaccinated worker is to work outside their ordinary place of residence on or after 15 October 2021;
- if an employer does have vaccination information for a worker by 15 October 2021 they the worker must be treated as if they are unvaccinated;
- exceptions to this are for workers who are unvaccinated, but have a booking to receive the first dose by the deadline, which means they will be partially vaccinated;
- there is also an exception for people who are in self quarantine, but have been delayed in being able to get the first dose due to the self-quarantine and have a booking to receive the first dose within 7 days of the end of the self-quarantine period;
- employers are authorised to use the vaccination information for complying with Clause 4;
- employers are to notify each worker who is or may be scheduled to work outside their ordinary place of residence on or after 15 October 2021 about the data collection obligations and that employers are not able to allow unvaccinated workers to work outside their place of residence without an exception as soon as reasonably practicable after the commencement of the Direction; and
- these requirements also apply to new workers who commence after the Direction comes into effect.
Workers must receive their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by 22 October 2021 – workers must provide evidence of this to their employer.
Workers must also provide their employers with evidence to show that the worker has made a booking to receive a second dose by 26 November 2021 (if not already fully vaccinated) in order to attend the workplace continue working.
Medical exemptions are only available to workers for a genuine medical contraindication as listed in the Direction.
Where workers do not comply with the relevant dates, employers must not permit a worker to attend the workplace until vaccinated. Employers must also request proof of the vaccination status of their workers and must supply it upon request by an Authorised Officer.
What should employers do?
Failure to comply with the Direction can result in fines being issued against both the business as well as against individuals.
Employers should issue their workers with a direction to comply with the Direction and requiring them to be at least partially vaccinated by 22 October 2021.
Where an employee fails to comply with a lawful and reasonable direction, an employer may take disciplinary action against them, which may include the termination of their employment. Termination of employment may also result from being unable to fulfil the inherent requirements of their role, if performing their role requires them to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
It is important to note the Direction does not require workers to receive a second dose or to be fully vaccinated. However, it does not require an employer to collect and hold information about whether the second dose has been obtained.
However, we recommend employers consider whether their health and safety duties require them to ensure relevant workers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, even though it is not mandatory under the Direction. In our view, it is likely this will be the case.
We can assist you with drafting notifications to your workers about these new changes, as well as drafting a vaccination policy tailored to your workplace.