Melbourne is in lockdown, travel across borders is impacted and cases are climbing…we have been here before. This time it is different, this time we know what we are dealing with and we know what we need to do. The problem is, we are not doing it. COVID complacency (or exhaustion) has crept in and as essential businesses the fuel wholesale and retail industry needs to ensure we are vigilant or our doors could be closing. Questions abound and have evolved including; Can the business direct staff to get vaccinated?, Does the business have to pay staff to isolate after testing?, Do staff need to use Check In QR codes?. So it is time to review what is and is not allowed where, and what operators should be doing now to encourage compliance and keep the economy, borders and businesses open.
Jab or no job?
Q: Can the business require staff to be vaccinated to work or to move between workplaces?
A: For the downstream petroleum industry, pre pandemic it would be a clear and easy NO WAY, the business absolutely can not force staff to declare their vaccine status, let alone deny them access to work or workplaces, if they have not been vaccinated or have not let the business know…this would (and has) been a clear case of adverse action.
In a post COVID world the answer is still NO, but there have been recent cases that have drawn lines around when it is and is not acceptable for staff to be required to have a vaccine at work. Childcare, healthcare, agedcare, and in these cases there is no requirement for COVID vaccine (yet), which is a new vaccine that has some reasonableness (at the law) to the argument of conscientious objection, the requirement in these cases are for the well known and long administered flu shot.
So the answer is still NO, despite the discussion and cases that have been in the media.
For businesses that would like to encourage their staff to get vaccinated then a social drive internally, including raffles, movie tickets, paid vaccine time etc are all available as levers for the business to pull in order to drive excitement in the business about getting vaccinated.
Even with social encouragement at the workplace there are some cautions to understand…if the business is are going to do a vaccine drive internally it will need to be careful about the language and influence. The business will need to be certain that it is not declaring that the vaccine is safe or appropriate for all persons in all situations, nor does it want to be giving (or seeming to be giving) medical advice, that is something that should be left entirly to the medical professionals. Rather the business could use phrases like;“Aust Health Department says…” , “Talk to your Doctor about…” , “[XYZ Fuel] has been here, supporting the community throughout the pandemic and we want to support you as the pandemic moves into the vaccine phase so we are offering you [incentive] …”
Businesses should be clear in understanding that some people are not able to be vaccinated and should ensure that any vaccine drive activities are not excluding these people or they could face bullying claims. “I’m Vaccinated” badges and stickers may seem harmless (and like a great marketing opportunity) but they can result in exclusion and targeting of persons who cannot receive the vaccine and so should be avoided.
It is important to ensure that any social drive or activity is open to persons unable to be vaccinated and that they have an avenue to confidentially discuss this with the business so as not to be identified as different.
One approach could be to talk to all employees about the fact that “some people cant be vaccinated, and thus cant get the protection from severe disease that the Department of Health says the vaccine brings…so that is another reason that if we can get vaccinated we should; to protect our colleagues who have no choice”.
An alternative to the “I’m Vaccinated” badges is to produce a series of badges that show all the ways that we can fight COVID-19; cleaning, checking in, distancing, vaccination and masks and encouraging staff to wear a mix of them while working.
Q: Do I have to pay staff if they are isolating?
A: If staff are isolating while they are awaiting a COVID Test Result, or because they have either are COVID positive or are deemed to be a close contact of a positive case the business is requried to;
Allow the employee access to unpaid pandemic leave
Allow the employee access to any accrued paid leave
But the business is not, in the fuel wholesale and retail industry, required to pay the staff while isolating.
However, staff can access financial support if they are isolating and meet eligibility criteria
At a National level staff can access a $1,500 payment when they are required to isolate due to a Positive Test Result or are declared close contact of a Positive case as long as they; are over 17y, have exhuased all available sick leave and present the requested supporting documents. For more information: see https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/pandemic-leave-disaster-payment-victoria
In addition in VIC staff can access a $450 payment when they are required to isolate while waiting for testing as long as they; are over 17y, have exhausted all available sick leave and present the requested supporting documents. This support is only available once every 30 days. For more information see: https://www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au/450-coronavirus-covid-19-test-isolation-payment
COVID QR Check In
Q: Do staff need to Check In with QR codes? Does the site really need one?
A: QR codes are ubiquitous now. In NSW, SA they are required for all businesses. In QLD they are required for all hospitality businesses. In VIC they have recently changed to be required even for short visit retail sites like to a service station. In TAS they are required for dine in establishments. In ACT, WA and the NT they are recommended as the contact register for fuel retail sites.
Whether they are required or recommended every fuel retail site should have their local government COVID Check In app inside the door and at the counter. This one tool is vital for contact tracers to quickly identify potential close contacts…but it needs to be used.
The business should display the COVID Check In and require all staff to sign in with it when onsite, and while the business will not be required to force customers to Check In, the business should be actively encouraging customers to Check In. Encouragement in the form of prominent placement (inside the shop) in the entrance and at the counter is a great first step, as is placing information and ‘don’t forget to Check In’ type posters on the pumps (not the Check In QR code itself for safety reasons).
This is an easy step that fuel retail businesses can take now
Find your State COVID Check In details below;
- NSW – https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/covid-safe/customer-record-keeping/setting-up-electronic-check-and-qr-codes
- SA – https://www.covid-19.sa.gov.au/restrictions-and-responsibilities/covid-safe-check-in
- QLD – https://www.covid19.qld.gov.au/check-in-qld
- VIC – https://www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au/about-victorian-government-qr-code-service
- TAS – https://coronavirus.tas.gov.au/check-in-tas
- WA – https://www.wa.gov.au/organisation/covid-communications/covid-19-coronavirus-safewa
- NT – https://coronavirus.nt.gov.au/stay-safe/check-in-app
- ACT – https://www.covid19.act.gov.au/business-and-work/check-in-cbr
Here to Help
ACAPMA members are reminded that ACAPMA has a series of resources from Quick Reference Guides to template letters and investigation and reporting checklists that can assist with ensuring compliant and consistent responses in this area, and can call on the advice and support of the ACAPMA Employment Professionals via firstname.lastname@example.org .
HR Highlights are things to consider, implement and watch out for in your business.
They are provided as general advice and you should seek further advice on your situation by emailing email@example.com it’s free for members.
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Elisha Radwanowski BCom(HRM &IR)
Executive Manager Employment and Training