The extended COVID-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Amendment Order 2021 (Vaccination Order) came into effect at 11.59pm on 25 October 2021, providing long-awaited guidance on who is an “affected person” for mandatory vaccination in the health and disability and education sectors (and in addition, those working in prisons).

The Vaccination Order requires persons falling into one of the affected groups to be vaccinated in order to undertake certain work.

How should an employer respond to the Vaccination Order?

As employers, you must determine whether your workers are “affected persons” and fit within the groups defined by the Vaccination Order. If your employees fall into one of the affected groups, they must be vaccinated by the relevant dates specified in the Vaccination Order (the Vaccination Deadline) to begin, continue or resume working in their present role. You must not allow an affected person to carry out certain work unless you are satisfied that the affected person has been vaccinated by the relevant Vaccination Deadline. It will be an offence for an affected person to carry out certain work without being vaccinated after the Vaccination Deadline, and an offence for an employer to allow an affected person to undertake that work. We can help you decipher whether your workers are indeed captured by the Vaccination Order.

What steps can employers take prior to the Vaccination Deadline?

Between now and the Vaccination Deadline, employers are being advised to write to all workers within their organisation who perform work within the scope of the Vaccination Order, advising them of the Vaccination Order and the need to be vaccinated. We can also help you prepare this correspondence to your affected employees.

If you haven't already, it is essential that employers obtain information regarding their affected employees' vaccination status. The Vaccination Order imposes extensive record keeping obligations on employers in relation to obtaining an affected employee's vaccination status, which is why employers must begin (if they have not already) collecting this information. We can provide you with detail on the specific information that the Vaccination Order requires employers to keep and maintain and provide recommendations on how to collect it.

What can employers do if their employees will not comply with the Vaccination Order?

If your workers are not vaccinated by the Vaccination Deadline, they must not work in roles which require them to be vaccinated, so you will need to consider other work that unvaccinated employees could undertake within your organisation. We can talk you through what to do where affected workers remain unvaccinated after the Vaccination Deadline. There are very few exceptions to affected persons carrying out certain work while unvaccinated. For more information on what these exceptions are, and whether any of your employees may be exempt from the requirement to be vaccinated, please get in touch.

Regardless of whether the Vaccination Order affects your employees, there is significant complexity when it comes to the vaccination of employees in the workplace as well as procedural steps required. Therefore, you should obtain legal advice for all your vaccination-related queries.

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.