By Robby Magyar

On 7 December 2021, the QLD Chief Health Officer announced the Public Health and Social Measures Linked to Vaccination Status Direction which comes into effect at 5 AM AEST 17 December 2021 and replaces the Restrictions on Businesses, Activities and Undertakings Direction (No.29).

The order outlines that owners, operators, visitors, and staff entering and remaining in specified businesses, activities and undertakings are required to be fully vaccinated or have evidence of a medical contraindication preventing them from receiving an available COVID-19 vaccine.

In this article, I explain the directions and what this means for your business.

What do the directions say?

Individuals entering and remaining at a specified business, activity or undertaking must comply with the relevant vaccination entry requirements related to that business, activity or undertaking, and provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination prior to entry, being served or upon request.

Unvaccinated individuals must either provide proof of a medical contraindication or a medical certificate or letter confirming they’re taking part in a COVID-19 vaccine trial, where vaccination with a currently approved Therapeutic Goods Administration (TAG) vaccine would impact the validity of the trial (noting that this is a temporary and extremely limited exemption) in order to access the business, activity or undertaking. No other unvaccinated persons may enter such premises unless they are 15 years old or younger.

Businesses are required to:

  • comply with these directions;
  • take reasonable steps to ensure staff and visitors comply;
  • request and sight proof of vaccination from staff and visitors;
  • clearly display signage detailing the vaccination requirement and the Check-in QLD app QR code at all entry points;
  • collect contact information using an accepted means;
  • comply with COVID-19 density limits where required; and
  • operate according to a COVID-19 checklist or COVID safe site plan where applicable.

These requirements do apply to a business, activity or undertaking conducted within a private residence, however, only to the part of the residence used for the business, activity or undertaking.

Business owners are not required to sight or collect vaccination proof where:

  • The visitor appears or is indeed younger than 16 years old;
  • The visitor is exercising a law enforcement, intelligence, or national security function on behalf of a government agency;
  • A person is seeking or providing emergency services; and
  • It would be unreasonable to sight or collect COVID-19 vaccination proof due to a risk to the safety of staff and other visitors, such as where a visitor becomes aggressive. In these circumstances, business owners can reasonably refuse service.

Non-compliance with these directions may result in fines up to $13,785 or a period of six months imprisonment.

Vaccination requirements

Under the order, the following businesses and undertakings are no longer subject to COVID-19 density limits from 17 December 2021, however they must only allow entry to visitors and workers over the age of 16 who meet the vaccination requirements outlined above:

  • Hospitality venues (including venues within hotels and shopping centres)
    • Cafes and restaurants.
    • Pubs, clubs, RSLs and taverns.
    • Function centres.
    • Bars, wineries, distilleries, and microbreweries.
  • Indoor live music venues, karaoke bars, concert theatres, cinemas, bowling alleys, amusement arcades.
  • Casinos, gaming, or gambling venues that are open to, and accessible by, members of the public.
    • A standalone wagering outlet is outside of the scope of the order.
  • Convention centres, including any outdoor areas.
  • Adult entertainment venues, strip clubs, brothels, sex on premises venues and sole operator sex workers.
  • Stadiums for major sporting matches and other events with 5,000 or more visitors.
  • Theme parks, outdoor amusement parks, tourism experiences.
    • National parks and public gardens are excluded.
    • Ferry services operating as a transport provider are not considered a tourism experience, although requirements relating to essential transport services still apply.
  • Zoos, aquariums, and wildlife centres.
  • Cultural, art and music festivals where ticketed entry applies.
  • Galleries, museums, national and state institutions, and historic sites.
  • State government libraries.
  • Visiting areas in prisons and youth detention centres.
    • Except where an unvaccinated person is required to accompany a minor or other person as a parent, guardian, carer, or support person.
  • Wedding ceremonies and receptions.
    • Unless the total number of attendances is 20 or less.
  • Private hire venues.
    • Unless the total number of attendees is 20, or 1 per 4 square metres, whichever is less.

Vaccination evidence requirements

The form of vaccination or medical contraindication evidence required to be sighted by employers and businesses to comply with the order includes the following:

  • Written confirmation provided to individuals upon receipt of a COVID-19 vaccine, such as a record of vaccine card.
  • Vaccination information as displayed on the Check-in QLD app.
  • A COVID-19 digital certificate.
  • A printed vaccination certificate from the Australian Immunisation Register.
  • An online or printed immunisation history statement for COVID-19 vaccination, including confirmation of a medical contraindication; or
  • An international COVID-19 vaccination certificate:
    • Printed or electronic from the Department of Home Affairs that confirms completion of an Australian Travel Declaration and vaccination against COVID-19 overseas; or
    • Through the Medicare or myGov mobile applications; or
    • An official record of vaccination is provided to the person when vaccinated against COVID-19 overseas.

Steps for employers

Employers should take reasonable steps to ensure their staff’s compliance with the order, including:

  1. Familiarising themselves with the requirements and definitions in the order.
  2. Notifying employees of the requirements contained in the order regarding the provision of their vaccination status and the requirement to be fully vaccinated by 17 December 2021.
  3. Engage with employees to encourage compliance with the vaccination requirements.
  4. Requesting employees provide vaccination evidence as promptly as possible to avoid disruptions in their ability to perform work.
  5. Consider placing employees who are unvaccinated or have not provided vaccination evidence by the required date/s on a period of unpaid leave or by agreement, paid leave. Personal leave will generally not be available where the employee is not suffering from an illness or injury that renders them unfit for work.
  6. In the event an employee refuses to comply with the order, seek advice concerning the potential options available which may include but are not limited to ending the employment relationship.

Please note: the information in this article was correct at the time of publishing, but given the nature of COVID-19, these orders are subject to change by the Government. Should there be any changes, the team at HR Assured will do its best to keep you updated. Businesses can also visit the Queensland Government’s website.

If this information has raised any questions or concerns, please get in touch with the team at HR Assured – we’realways here to support you.

Clients of HR Assured can contact the 24/7 Telephone Advisory Service at any time.

If your business is not an HR Assured client, we’d like to offer you a no-obligation, complimentary 30-minute consultation call. Employers can speak to our friendly workplace relations consultants and seek advice about the information in this article or an existing workplace issue. You can arrange your complimentary consultation here.

Robby Magyar is a Workplace Relations Consultant at FCB and HR Assured who relishes the opportunity to assist businesses in the best practice approach to managing employees and compliance concerns. He has a particular interest in making employment law and human resources digestible for our clients.