Macpherson Kelley has published details about the Victorian Government’s announcement for mandatory vaccination for all workers on the authorised worker list. The formal COVID-19 Mandatory Vaccination (Workers) Directions were published by the government on 7 October 2021.
There is a significant change to the way the location of workers has been expressed. Rather than looking at the type of site where a worker may be working, the consideration is simply whether or not the worker is working at home.
The employers and workers covered by the vaccination mandate is very broad and includes:
- Manufacturing workers
- Professional services workers
- Repair and maintenance workers
- Retail workers etc.
These new Directions must be read together with the other directions currently in force (e.g. specifically for the construction and education sectors).
Vaccination requirement directions regarding employer obligations
Under these broad Directions, employers are obligated to:
- Collect the worker’s vaccination status who are not working at home
- Inform workers of the employer’s obligations as set out in the Directions.
Definitions under new directions
An “employer” means the person or entity who (i) employs, and/or (ii) engages, workers. It also includes those who are self-employed.
A “worker” means an employee, and/or a contractor, whether paid or unpaid.
What are the key timelines?
On or after 15 October 2021, an employer must not permit an unvaccinated worker to work for that employer outside the worker’s ordinary place of residence. This captures any work to be undertaken (i) at the employer’s worksite, and/or (ii) at another worksite, and/or (iii) out in public, and/or (iv) in someone else’s home, etc.
The first vaccination dose deadline was 22 October 2021. The second vaccination dose deadline is 26 November 2021.
What about exemptions?
There are limited exemptions for workers who:
- Can provide evidence of a booking to receive their vaccination during the relevant intervening periods; or
- Can provide certification of a recognised medical contraindication against vaccination from a recognised medical practitioner (as defined).
There are also narrow exemptions to allow an unvaccinated worker to work outside their ordinary place of residence in ‘exceptional circumstances’. These limited scenarios include work duties related to essential asset and infrastructure operations, responding to emergency situations, and critical unforeseen circumstances.
Onus on employer to track vaccination status
If an employer does not hold proof of vaccination information about a worker, the employer must treat the worker as if the worker is unvaccinated.
Employers can be penalised up to approx. $22,000 (individuals) and $110,000 (corporations) for failure to comply with the Directions.
By Kelly Dickson, Managing Principal Lawyer – Dandenong, Macpherson Kelley