Late last week the Victorian Government released the formal Directions underpinning its announcement the prior week that those Victorian workers who had been classified as "authorised workers" during the pandemic would be required to be vaccinated in order to continue working.
These Directions are framed in a similar way to the Directions issued by the Victorian Government in specific sectors such as aged care, construction, healthcare and education in that they don't impose an explicit obligation on employees to be vaccinated. Rather, under the Directions applying to those specific sectors the obligation is on the employer not to allow unvaccinated workers to attend the premises operated by those employers.
In the case of "authorised workers", the obligation is on the employer not to allow a worker to work anywhere other than their usual place of residence unless the worker has provided the employer with evidence that the employee has had the required first and second vaccinations by the required dates. The timelines are as follows (and which were extended out one week relative to the Govt's initial announcement):
- as from Friday 15 October the worker needs to have received their first vaccination or be booked in to receive their first vaccination within the following week;
- as from Friday 22 October the worker needs to have received their first vaccination; and
- as from Friday 26 November the worker needs to have received their second vaccination.
In terms of the evidence of vaccination that an employee can provide, it can be an immunisation certificate (eg from the MyGov register) or a letter from the employee's medical practitioner.
Employers with turnover exceeding three million dollars will need to comply with their obligations under the Privacy Act in obtaining vaccination information from their employees. For further information about compliance with the Privacy Act see our Employment Update of 28 September 2021 (https://pointonpartners.com.au/return-to-work-office-for-fully-vaccinated-workers-requesting-evidence-of-an-employees-vaccination-status/ )
The Directions do not apply in the case of workers who have provided their employer with an immunisation exemption certificate issued by their medical practitioner. The grounds for obtaining such a certificate are extremely limited (e.g. an allergy to the particular Covid vaccines).
It is important for employers to note that the Directions will apply to workers employed by essential businesses who have been largely working from home during the pandemic but in respect of whom the employer may have issued work permits for ad hoc purposes. Eg take the example of a business development manager employed by a logistics company who may have been issued a work permit by the employer once a week to enable the manager to visit clients but who was otherwise working from home. Going forward the employer would not be able to issue a work permit to such a manager unless the manager had been vaccinated by the required deadlines (or had provided an immunisation exemption certificate). This is because the Directions target any work done away from home and not just attendance at the workplace.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.