By Bethany Silverman

In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, on 20 October 2021 the South Australian Government issued the Emergency Management (Healthcare Setting Workers Vaccination No 2) (COVID-19) Direction 2021 (Directions) which mandates vaccination against COVID-19 in certain healthcare settings.

The Directions have taken a phased approach to mandatory vaccination requirements, which groups certain types of healthcare facilities into either Phase 1 Healthcare Facilities or Phase 2 Healthcare Facilities. The date upon which vaccination requirements come into effect under the Directions differs between each phase.

What is a Phase 1 or Phase 2 Healthcare Facility?

A Phase 1 healthcare setting includes public hospitals, private hospitals, and ambulance services.

A Phase 2 healthcare setting includes:

  1. primary community healthcare facilities;
  2. pharmacies;
  3. specialist outpatient facilities;
  4. private pathology centres;
  5. private radiology centres;
  6. defence health settings;
  7. facilities for the collection, manufacture and distribution of blood and biological products;
  8. Aboriginal community controlled health services;
  9. any location where the Department of Health and Wellbeing, the Commission on Excellence and Innovation in Health and Wellbeing SA carries out any business or undertaking.

What do the Directions say?

The Directions provide that a person must not engage in work or perform duties in a Phase 1 healthcare setting from 1 November 2021, or Phase 2 healthcare setting from 8 November 2021 unless:

  1. the person has received at least one dose of a Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approved COVID-19 vaccine; and
  2. the person has received, or has evidence of a booking to receive, a second dose of a TGA approved COVID-19 vaccine within one month of the first dose.

Who do the Directions apply to?

The Directions applies to all persons engaging in work or duties at a healthcare setting including clinicians, ambulance workers, allied health workers, cleaners, administrative and executive staff, and students undertaking placement, regardless of whether they work in a patient or a non-patient area. This means that any dental professionals or workers performing work in public hospitals or private hospitals must comply with the Directions.

The Directions also apply to all persons who attend a healthcare setting in the course of their work or duties, including if their attendance is incidental such as delivery drivers or suppliers.

A person subject to the Directions must provide the operator of the healthcare setting with proof of their vaccination status upon request.

Are there any exceptions to the Directions?

A person may, however, continue to engage in work or perform duties at a healthcare setting if:

  1. the person has a medical certificate from a legally qualified medical practitioner certifying that the person has a medical exemption from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine on either a permanent or temporary basis in accordance with the guidelines published from time to time by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI); and
  2. the certificate specifies the nature of the exemption and the basis on which it applies; and
  3. the Chief Public Health Officer or her delegate has endorsed the exemption; and
  4. the person provides the operator of the healthcare setting with a copy of the endorsement provided under paragraph (c).

The operator of a healthcare setting must ensure any worker to whom an exception applies complies with the COVID Safe Plan for the setting and wears appropriate personal protective equipment which they have been trained how to use.

Next steps

Healthcare professionals captured by Phase 1 of the Directions have until 1 November 2021 to either:

  1. be fully vaccinated against COVID-19; or,
  2. be partially vaccinated against COVID-19 and have evidence of a booking to receive a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccination.

Workers in practices which are captured by Phase 2 of the Directions have until 8 November 2021 to either:

  1. be fully vaccinated against COVID-19; or,
  2. be partially vaccinated against COVID-19 and have evidence of a booking to receive a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccination.

Such workers should take steps to ensure compliance with the Directions before the relevant date, including providing evidence of their vaccination status. Workers who fail to comply with the Directions will not be permitted to attend work from the relevant date (unless an exception applies).

Practices should take steps to ensure compliance with the Directions, including:

  1. Familiarising themselves with the requirements and definitions in the Directions.
  2. Notifying employees of the requirements contained in the Directions regarding vaccination requirements and evidence requirements.
  3. Engage with employees to encourage compliance with the vaccination requirements.
  4. Request 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 Directions, seek advice concerning the potential options available which may include but are not limited to ending the employment relationship.

If this information has raised any questions or concerns, please contact the team at HR Assured – we’re always here to support you.

Clients of HR Assured can contact the 24/7 Telephone Advisory Service 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 this new legislation or an existing workplace issue. You can arrange your complimentary consultation here.

Bethany Silvermanis a Solicitor at FCB Group and HR Assured. She regularly provides advice to a wide range of businesses in respect of compliance with workplace laws and managing complex matters including disciplinary and performance management processes and terminations.