The Northern Territory Vaccine Mandate, announced on 15/9/2021, has mandated that the first dose be administered to the covered workers by 13/11/2021.  A few short weeks away, this deadline is rapidly approaching so now is the time for operators take a moment to make sure that their systems are bedded down, and they are able to demonstrate compliance to the many inspectors and enforcement bodies that will be visiting sites over the coming year.  This weeks HR Highlight will explore the mandate, the requirements for businesses and the broader context of Exposure Response changes as well as a practical Q & A in light of this mandate.

As ACAPMA covered here; https://acapmag.com.au/2021/10/nt-mandatory-vaccination-details-released/, the Vaccine Mandate has been live for some time.

Directions

The Directions giving rise to the requirement for ALL Authorised Workers in Victoria to have at least 1 dose of vaccination by 13/11/2021 and to have a second dose by 24/12/2021, have been updated again  – https://coronavirus.nt.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/1058346/cho-directions-no55-2021.pdf

Who do the Direction apply to?

The Directions apply to workers who fall into particular categories.  In the fuel industry the following categories apply to the common work roles;

  • Fuel Retail – Category 1 Workers who are likely to come into contact with people who are at risk of severe illness from COVID & Category 3 Workers who perform work in essential infrastructure, food or essential goods security or supply, or logistics in the Territory – Clause 4.a and 4.d of the Directions
  • Fuel Wholesale (non driver) – Category 3 Workers who perform work in essential infrastructure, food or essential goods security or supply, or logistics in the Territory – Clause 4.d of the Directions
  • Fuel Transport (driver) – Category 3 Workers who perform work in essential infrastructure, food or essential goods security or supply, or logistics in the Territory – Clause 4.d of the Directions
  • Fuel Admin – Category 3 Workers who perform work in essential infrastructure, food or essential goods security or supply, or logistics in the Territory – Clause 4.d of the Directions

When do the Directions apply?

The Directions require;

  • First dose by 13/11/2021
  • Second dose by 24/12/2021

Vaccination Register Requirements?

 Businesses are required to collect Vaccination Information for workers attending site.   This means that the business needs to sight the information (at least) and keep a record of that.

  • Simple Sight Register of Staff VaccinationOne approach to meeting this requirement that works for staff is to create a simple spreadsheet that tracks the relevant information;  Staff Name, what evidence of vaccination/booking/exemption was viewed, who viewed it and on what date.  This can be completed onsite by hand or via a detailed spreadsheet for larger groups of staff.  ACAPMA has distributed to Members a simple tool that is formatted to allow printing and completing onsite, and includes a matrix and simple logic for setting up a more detailed database.  This meets the requirements for the Mandate information gathering and serves as a Go/NoGo tool for the two important dates of  13/11/2021 and 24/12/2021.
  • Simple Sight Register of Contractors/Site Visitor VaccinationContractors and site visitors already sign into the workplace – there is a simple option of adding a column to the sign in sheet  that tracks the relevant information;  Staff Name, what evidence of vaccination/booking/exemption was viewed, who viewed it and on what date. ACAPMA has distributed to Members a simple tool that is formatted to allow printing and completing onsite, and includes a matrix and simple logic for setting up a more detailed database.  This meets the requirements for the Mandate information gathering.  It is noted that the employer of the contractor is the one that is responsible for ensuring that the employee is vaccinated from a mandate perspective, however the site will be asked to show why they did not have a system for ensuring contractors were not a risk to staff under the safety laws, so this approach satisfies that element 
  • Global System Verification of Contractor/Visitor Vaccination – The business can proactively request that its suppliers confirm that all contractors that will be sent to their site will be in compliance with the vaccine mandate.  Some businesses will seek that themselves when the worker arrives (like the contractor process outlined above) others may seek to streamline the contractor process by contacting the business directly to get an indication of the status of staff at a global level.  In this case a global response would be appropriate such as;  “Thank you for your enquiry regarding the vaccination status of our employees that attend your site as part of their work duties.  This letter includes information of the process the business has implemented to ensure compliance with the Northern Territory Vaccination Mandate and current status.  The business has implemented a review to ensure compliance with the vaccine mandate for all workers.  All workers have been asked to display to the business evidence of either their vaccination status or a booking for vaccine to occur prior to 13/11/2021 or a medical exemption.  The business has recorded the evidence displayed, who it was displayed to and when it was displayed.  The business will repeat this display process prior to the 13/11/2021 deadline and 24/12/2021 deadline.  In accordance with the legal requirements any staff that have been unable or unwilling to display this evidence by these deadlines will not be rostered to work at the business sites or at and partner or client sites.  Any staff that do attend partner/client sites will have their evidence of vaccination/booking/exemption with them and will display these to partner/client staff on request.  If you have any questions about this process please do not hesitate to contact us”

What should the business now?

  1. Businesses should reach out to staff again now that the Directions have been released – see sample letter below.
  2. Businesses should commence Vaccination Register to record information (see ACAPMA Vaccination Register templates for more information)
  3. Businesses should ensure that from 13/11/2021 staff, contractors and visitors (not customers – workers who are doing work at the site) are signing in and providing their vaccination status evidence (see the ACAPMA Vaccination Register templates for more information)

Sample Communication Letter 

The following is a sample of a standard letter that can be provided to staff to provide context and information to staff, while also providing the business with information needed to ensure it can correctly and compliantly roster staff.

Dear [name],

As you will have heard the NT Government has announced a mandate for certain workers to be vaccinated – https://coronavirus.nt.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/1058346/cho-directions-no55-2021.pdf .

The mandate, that is made law through the Directions, states that certain workers will need to have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by 13/11/2021 and have the second dose by 24/12/2021 in order to come to work, unless they have a medical contraindication exemption.

As a [Fuel Retail/Fuel Wholesale/Fuel Transport/Fuel Administration] worker you are a [Category 1 and 3 / Category 3] worker and this mandate applies to you.

The mandate is a law that has been put in place by the Government and it is a requirement of the law that the business ensure that no mandated workers  are allowed at work if they have not had at least one dose of an approved COVID-19 vaccination by 13/11/2021 or a second dose before 24/12/2021.

Penalties apply to the business and to the workers who breach this law.

In order to meet the requirements of the law the business is required to collect, record and hold vaccination information about mandated workers and may be required to provide this evidence to authorities and third party businesses when your work takes you to a third party business workplace.  The vaccine register will record name, status, date status evidence was viewed and who viewed the evidence. This is in line with the requirements in clause 13-15 of the Direction

We understand that these changes are happening quickly and that they can be hard to follow – for more information see; https://coronavirus.nt.gov.au/stay-safe/freedoms-and-restrictions#/mandatory_vaccination_for_certain_workers .

Please urgently provide evidence of your COVID-19 vaccination status (vaccine certificate/proof of vaccination) and/or vaccination booking to your Site Manager.

We are working with authorities and government to understand options any exceptions now, but given that the vaccination requirement is law you would not be allowed onsite after 13/11/2021 unless you comply with the Directions.  Providing required evidence to the business that you have had received at least one COVID-19 vaccination, have a booking for vaccination that will occur prior to 13/11/2021 and will receive your second dose before 24/12/2021 or have an approved medical contraindication is required as per the law.  If you are legally unable to be at the workplace to undertake your work your employment will be untenable due to inability to meet the inherent physical requirements of the role and you will be asked to show cause as to why your employment should not be terminated for same.

Kindest Regards

[name]

Mandatory Vaccination Q & A

  • Q:  Does the business need to keep a copy of the vaccination? – No.  The business needs to implement a mechanism to ensure that it is ensuring that it is not allowing unvaccinated workers onsite (other than booking/exemption).  To do that the business needs to view the vaccination/booking/exemption status, but does not need to keep a copy of it – this is why it is very important to record who viewed the evidence and what they viewed.
  • Q:  Can the business keep a copy of the vaccination evidence? – Yes.  But it should be kept as an employment document and the privacy of same protected.
  • Q:  Can the business provide vaccination evidence to partners/clients on their request or proactively? – Yes, but privacy will need to be respected.  If the business is going to provide the evidence to a third party (eg another business that the worker does work at) personal information should be redacted.  This would mean at the least redacting the personal health identifier, but could arguably extend to the Date of Birth, Type of Vaccine Provided, Actual Contraindication on Exemption.  What third parties need to know when a worker is going to do work on their site is if the worker is allowed to do work – so they need to know the status not the details.
  • Q:  Does the vaccine mandate apply to brand group sales reps coming to site? – Absolutely!!!  The requirement for the mandate is very simple and very clear (rare in these confused times).  Persons doing work on a fuel retail site are covered by the Mandate and the business will need to ensure that they are actively ensuring that they are not allowing unvaccinated workers onto site.  State wide!
  • Q:  Are there penalties for the worker if they lie about vaccine status? – Yes.  If a worker provides false or misleading information about the vaccination status they can be fined.
  • Q:  Are there penalties for a business if they allow an worker onsite without evidence of vaccination/booking/exemption? – Yes.  If the business allows a worker onsite without the required evidence they can be fined.
  • Q:  We are recruiting, can we put “must be vaccinated (or have a booking for first dose by 13/11/2021 or exemption) on the Job Ad? – Yes…BUT ONLY IN NT!!!!!  The NT mandate means that it is illegal for a business to allow an Authorised Worker onto site without the vaccination/booking/exemption, so it is reasonable and appropriate to include this vital element and inherent requirement in the job ad.  EVERYWHERE ELSE THIS IS SOMETHING TO BE VERY CAREFUL OF.
  • Q:  Will the vaccination mandate end?  Does it stop or go away at 70% or 80%? – While it is not clear it is considered unlikely this will be removed.

 

Exposure Response

New exposure response frameworks are being finalised now and ACAPMA will provide information as soon as it is finalised

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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