COVID-19 Vaccinations for employees
The Fair Work Ombudsman has released additional guidance to employers on the circumstances in which it could be appropriate to require their employees to be vaccinated.
See link: https://coronavirus.fairwork.gov.au/coronavirus-and-australian-workplace-laws/covid-19-vaccinations-and-the-workplace/covid-19-vaccinations-workplace-rights-and-obligations#lawful-and-reasonable-directions-to-get-vaccinated
Employers can only require their employees to be vaccinated where:
- a specific law (including the public health orders) requires an employee to be vaccinated
- the requirement is permitted by an enterprise agreement, other registered agreement or employment contract, or
- it would be lawful and reasonable for an employer to give their employees a direction to be vaccinated, which is assessed on a case-by-case basis.
As to whether or not a direction is reasonable requires a case-by-case assessment based on factors which include:
- the nature of the workplace (are employees in public-facing roles and is the business an essential service?)
- The extent of community transmission in the location of the workplace, including the risk of transmission of the Delta variant
- WHS obligations and the effectiveness of vaccines
- Each employee’s circumstances including if there is a legitimate reason not to get vaccinated
- Vaccine availability
To guide employers in the case by case assessment, the Fair Work Ombudsman has divided workplaces into four tiers:
- Tier 1 work where employees are required as part of their duties to interact with people with an increased risk of being infected with coronavirus (for example, employees working in hotel quarantine or border control).
- Tier 2 work where employees are required to have close contact with people who are particularly vulnerable to the health impacts of coronavirus (for example, employees working in health care or aged care).
- Tier 3 work where there is interaction or likely interaction between employees and other people such as customers, other employees or the public in the normal course of employment (for example, stores providing essential goods and services).
- Tier 4 work where employees have minimal face-to-face interaction as part of their normal employment duties (for example, where they are working from home).
As you would be aware from our recent article, the NSW Government has imposed a number of restrictions to combat COVID-19 including making specific public health orders which require workers in certain industries to have had a vaccination (or have an exemption) in order to work.
From 11 August 2021, additional restrictions were imposed on employees from “areas of concern” which are currently the local government areas of Blacktown, Campbelltown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Fairfield, Georges River, Liverpool, Parramatta and some suburbs of Penrith. To keep up to date with changes to the public health orders and updates to the local government “areas of concern” go to https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/rules/affected-area#summary-of-restrictions.
Since 31 July 2021, work has been allowed to resume on construction sites in Greater Sydney including in local government areas of concern. However, construction sites in local government areas of concern must comply with a number of requirements listed here: https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/rules/construction-rules-and-restrictions#rules-for-construction-sites.
One of the requirements is that from 11 August 2021 workers who live in or are temporarily staying in a local government area of concern must comply with vaccination requirements in order to work at or enter a construction site in Greater Sydney. A person from these areas must not enter or remain at a construction site in Greater Sydney unless they have:
- had 2 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine or
- had one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine before Wednesday 21 July 2021 or
- had one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine after Wednesday 21 July 2021 and you have been tested for COVID-19 in the past 72 hours (3 days) or
- evidence of a medical exemption and you have been tested for COVID-19 in the past 72 hours.
If a person is required to have a COVID-19 test to enter or remain at a construction site, they must have a COVID-19 test once every 72 hours.
Construction workers can request a COVID-19 vaccination exemption for medical reasons.
Further information in relation to the evidence requirements is here: https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/health-and-wellbeing/covid-19-vaccination-nsw/covid-19-vaccination-for-workers.
There are also vaccination requirements for quarantine facilities, transport providers and airport workers. Further information is available here: https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/health-and-wellbeing/covid-19-vaccination-nsw/covid-19-vaccination-for-workers
Residential Aged Care
From 17 September 2021, COVID-19 vaccinations will be mandatory for all residential aged care workers. For further information see: https://www.health.gov.au/initiatives-and-programs/covid-19-vaccines/information-for-aged-care-providers-workers-and-residents-about-covid-19-vaccines/information-for-residential-aged-care-workers-about-covid-19-vaccines.
Assisting your employees to get vaccinated
The NSW Government has released a number of resources for businesses to use to encourage their employees to get vaccinated and to ensure that employees have access to accurate information on the vaccination program.
The information is available here: https://www.health.gov.au/resources/collections/covid-19-vaccination-business-kit#information-sheets.
Allan Hall HR will continue to provide updated information about managing vaccinations in workplaces and keep you apprised of changes to the COVID-19 restrictions which impact you and your employees. If you need advice and assistance in relation to the specific circumstances in your workplace, please get in touch with our team on 1300 675 393.