NSW Vaccination requirements and COVID Safe Protocols post 11/10/202

After more than three months in lockdown on Monday 11 October 2021 NSW will open up, for the fully vaccinated. What does this mean for the essential service that is fuel retail and wholesale? What should businesses be communicating to their staff now to be ready to meet, not just the legislative requirements, but to keep staff and community safe? This weeks HR Highlight explores NSW open (to vaccinated) economy.

Vaccination mandate?

Since first announcing the Roadmap out of lockdown the Premier, Health Minister and Chief Health Officer have repeatedly noted that all workers will need to be vaccinated. As a result businesses have been advised to write to their staff to seek their vaccination status to ensure that they are able to properly staff the business once opening occurs.

It has long been clear that as an essential service retail fuel retail would not be closed to unvaccinated customers and as a result there would not be a need to check vaccination status of customers.

After a very active and change filled week in NSW political and Health landscape there is finally clarity about what the operational requirements will look like once the economy opens on 11/10/2021.

The Public Health Orders are now released and rather than applying requirements on workers or customers, the Order has, for the first time, pivoted to “persons”. This means that vaccination requirements are applied to all “persons” at a workplace/venue.

As a result of this pivot, for fuel retail and fuel wholesale, which is open and available to unvaccinated customers, the vaccination requirement is also not applied to staff – so staff may in fact be unvaccinated.

Does this mean that my staff in fuel retail will not need to check customer vaccination status?

Yes. As an essential service, vaccination status of customers is not a barrier to entry and as such does not need to be checked by staff before customers enter the site.

Does this mean that the staff working in fuel retail do not need vaccination now?

Yes. It may seem like an odd step but it is due to the discrimination concerns and some recent cases that the pivot from applying restrictions to workers and customers separately towards applying restrictions to all persons.

Does this mean that I don’t need to know the staff vaccination status in fuel retail?

It means that the urgency is removed to know the status of all staff, though it is recommended that the business gauge the status of staff as closely as possible. As has been shown in other jurisdictions mandates can be implemented with as little as days notice, and as we enter the unknown of opening up, mandating vaccination for the remaining areas is a tool the government and health can use, so it is best to be armed with the information and able to respond quickly.

Should I write to my staff about this?

Yes. The business should write to staff about the management of vaccination status onsite generally, for customers and staff, so that staff understand the context of their work, and the importance of continued compliance with COVID Protocols, cleaning and controls.

Memo: Vaccination requirements and COVID Safe Protocols post 11/10/2021

Vaccination Requirements

The Public Health Orders that will govern the post 11/10/2021 operations have been released and rather than applying requirements on workers or customers, the Order has, for the first time, pivoted to “persons”. This means that vaccination requirements are applied to all “persons” at a workplace/venue. As a result of this pivot, for fuel retail as an essential service which is open and available to unvaccinated customers, the vaccination requirement is now does not apply to staff.

This means that the vaccination status of customers does not need to be checked by any staff.

Staff will still be required to remind customers about COVID Check In – “have you checked in?”, “don’t forget to check in” etc

Memo: Vaccination requirements and COVID Safe Protocols post 11/10/2021

Vaccination Requirements

The Public Health Orders that will govern the post 11/10/2021 operations have been released and rather than applying requirements on workers or customers, the Order has, for the first time, pivoted to “persons”. This means that vaccination requirements are applied to all “persons” at a workplace/venue. As a result of this pivot, for fuel retail as an essential service which is open and available to unvaccinated customers, the vaccination requirement is now does not apply to staff.

This means that the vaccination status of customers does not need to be checked by any staff.

Staff will still be required to remind customers about COVID Check In – “have you checked in?”, “don’t forget to check in” etc

COVID Safe Protocols

The business has and continues to follow its COVID Safe Plan. This Plan includes controls, such as; staff and customer COVID Check In, masks, screens, cleaning and distancing etc that are designed to keep staff and customers safe.

The business knows that masks are inconvenient and the high touch COVID Cleaning schedule is intensive, but it has been a very big part of protecting our staff and customers, and is more important than ever as the economy opens and we see more customers onsite. Compliance with the critical safety instructions regarding masks, screens, cleaning and other COVID protocols is imperative, and breaches will be treated very seriously.

One of the vital elements to the COVID Safe Protocols is distancing. Staff must keep distance from other staff and customers wherever possible. It should be noted that where the staff are closer than 1.5m to other staff or customers there are implications on Exposure Response that will be more and more relevant as case numbers climb over the coming months.

Exposure Response

The business has been asked to clarify what happens if a customer or staff member attends the site as an infected person. The response to an exposure onsite will be dependent on the vaccination status of the staff, the size and location of the space, if staff and infected person were wearing masks and distance. The exposed staff member will be classified as a Contact;

  • Close Contact – get tested and isolate for 7 days regardless of the result – 14 days if unvaccinated
  • Casual Contact – get tested and isolated until a negative result
  • Low Risk Contact – monitor for symptoms and get tested if symptoms appear

See table below for the assessment that will be used. It is noted that in most fuel retail environments if the exposed person is FULLY VACCINATED they will likely be assessed as being a Low Risk Contact who will just need to monitor for symptoms and get tested if symptoms appear, whereas if the exposed person is UNVACCINATED they will likely be assessed as being a Close Contact and will need to get tested and isolate for 7 days. The actual assessment will be done based on actual exposure.

Federal government isolation support payments will not apply from 11/10/2021. Staff will be able to access any accrued leave to isolate or access leave without pay if they do not have accrued leave.

Exposure Response Table as per NSW Health;

While we are all looking forward to the economy opening, that opening is likely to come with further changes and tweaks as the State gets used to the new COVID normal. As these changes and tweaks are released we will keep you informed.

Again, thank you all for your patience and resilience to the waves of COVID requirements we have all faced over the last 18 months, and specifically the rapid and drastic changes we have experienced in the last 3 months.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to reach out to me.

Kindest Regards
[manager]

More information

The Public Health Order – note does not come into force until 11/10/2021; https://legislation.nsw.gov.au/file/Public%20Health%20(COVID-19%20General)%20Order%202021.pdf

Here to Help

HR Highlights are things to consider, implement and watch out for in your business. They are provided as general information for you to consider and do not constitute advice. You should seek further advice on your situation by contacting your legal advisor. ACAPMA members can access resources and receive advice, guidance and support from the ACAPMA employment professionals via employment@acapma.com.au, it is free for members. ACAPMA Membership delivers this and more benefits, see; https://acapma.com.au/membership/ for more information.

Elisha Radwanowski BCom(HRM&IR)
ACAPMA

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