By Bethany Silverman

On 1 October 2021, the Victorian Premier announced that to combat the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, all ‘authorised workers’ must be vaccinated against COVID-19 to perform on-site work. On 7 October 2021, the Victorian Government released the COVID-19 Mandatory Vaccination (Workers) Directions (Directions), which provides greater clarity with respect to the vaccination requirements for authorised workers.

In this alert, I provide clarity on the Directions and how this may impact on your business.

What do the Directions say?

The Directions provide that the following information must be collected:

Vaccination information:

If a worker is, or may be, scheduled to work outside the worker’s ordinary place of residence on or after 15 October 2021, the employer of the worker must collect, record, and hold vaccination information about the worker.

Vaccination information is information about a person’s vaccination status and includes information that is derived from a record of information that was made under, or in accordance with, the Australian Immunisation Register Act 2015.

Booking Information – partially vaccinated and unvaccinated workers:

  • If the employer collects information that a worker is partially vaccinated, the employer must also collect, record and hold information about whether that worker has a booking to receive, by the second dose deadline, a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine that will cause the worker to become fully vaccinated.
  • If the employer collects information that a worker is unvaccinated, the employer must also collect, record, and hold information about whether that worker has a booking to receive, by the first dose deadline, a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine that will cause the worker to become partially vaccinated.

Workers who fail to provide vaccination information will be treated as if they are unvaccinated.

Who is a worker?

The Directions operate to require all specified authorised workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19. A worker includes both paid and unpaid workers.

The Directions apply to several industries, including, but not limited to:

  • Accommodation workers;
  • Agricultural and forestry workers;
  • Airport workers;
  • Care workers;
  • Community workers;
  • Emergency service workers;
  • Entertainment and function workers;
  • Funeral workers;
  • Higher education workers;
  • Manufacturing workers;
  • Mining workers;
  • Physical recreation workers;
  • Professional service workers;
  • Real estate workers
  • Religious workers;
  • Retail workers;
  • Science and technology workers;
  • Social and community ;
  • Transport workers; and
  • Veterinarians and pet/animal care workers.

Vaccination requirements

The Directions provide that a business must collect vaccination information by 15 October 2021.

If the worker is not at least partially vaccinated by 15 October 2021, they are not permitted to perform work outside their usual place of residence unless they provide evidence of an appointment to be vaccinated by 22 October 2021.

Workers must be fully vaccinated by 26 November 2021. If they are not fully vaccinated by this date, they will not be permitted to perform work outside their usual place of residence.

In the event a worker is not vaccinated in accordance with the Directions, the business must not permit the worker to perform work outside their usual place of residence. This means that where a worker is unable to work from home, they will be unable to work.

Notification requirements

The Directions provide that an employer of a worker must, as soon as reasonably practicable inform each worker who is, or may be, scheduled to work outside the worker’s ordinary place of residence on or after 15 October 2021 that:

  • The business is required to collect, record, and hold vaccination information about the worker; and
  • The business cannot, on and after 15 October 2021, permit a worker who is unvaccinated to work for that employer outside the worker’s ordinary place of residence unless an exception applies.

There are, however, medical exceptions that apply under the Directions.

Exception criteria

The Directions provide that a person is an excepted person:

  • if the person holds certification from a medical practitioner that the person is unable to receive a dose, or a further dose, of a COVID-19 vaccine due to a medical contraindication; or
  • if the person holds certification from a medical practitioner that the person is unable to receive a dose, or a further dose, of a COVID-19 vaccine due to an acute medical illness (including where the person has been diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2).

A certification as specified above is effective until the earlier of:

  • the date specified by the medical practitioner; or
  • the date six months from the date the certification was given by the medical practitioner.

Steps for businesses

  1. Businesses should take steps to ensure compliance with the Directions. This includes:
  • Notify employees of the requirements under the Directions to:
  • Provide vaccination and booking information by 15 October 2021; and
  • Be at least partially vaccinated to perform work after 22 October 2021 at a place other than the employee’s usual place of residence;

2. Be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by 26 November 2021

3. Actively engage with employees to encourage compliance with the vaccination requirements;

4. Request employees provide vaccination evidence no later than 15 October 2021 in order to perform work outside their usual place of residence on and after this date;

5. Employees who do not provide vaccination evidence will be treated as if they are unvaccinated;

6. Employees who are unvaccinated or do not provide vaccination evidence will be placed on a period of unpaid leave. They may utilise paid leave entitlements, however, employees cannot access personal leave in such circumstances.

In the event an employee does not comply with the Directions, businesses are encouraged to seek advice with respect to 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 Silverman is a Senior Workplace Relations Consultant at HR Assured. She regularly engages businesses in matters of compliance and best practice. She has a particular interest in the performance management process.