The Victorian Vaccine Mandate, announced on 1/10/2021, has been in place for some time and the Premier has announced that it is likely to remain a key feature for all of 2022.  The first and second deadlines have past and the State is opening up, so it is time for businesses that were in a scramble with the announcement to 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 the long term nature of this mandate.

As ACAPMA covered here; https://acapmag.com.au/2021/10/vic-vaccine-mandate-for-authorised-workers/, the Vaccine Mandate has been live for some time.  Like most of the Directions, the Vaccine Mandate Direction have changed and evolved over time.

Directions

The Directions giving rise to the requirement for ALL Authorised Workers in Victoria to have at least 1 dose of vaccination by 15/10/2021 and to have a second dose by 26/11/2021, have been updated again (up to 5 now) – https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/202110/COVID%2019%20Mandatory%20Vaccination%20%28Workers%29%20Directions%20%28No%205%29.pdf

The Premier announced on 1/1/2021, a vaccine mandate for all Authorised Workers including fuel retail, wholesale and admin staff) in Victoria will be subject to a vaccination mandate.  All Authorised Workers will be required to have at least one dose of vaccine by 22/10 and second dose by at least 26/11.

Who do the Direction apply to?

All Authorised Workers – in the fuel retail and wholesale space the specific sections are;

  • Clause 9.21.a.iii – transport and freight workers (warehouse)
  • Clause 9.21.a.iv – transport and freight drivers
  • Clause 9.28.m.vii – petrol station worker

When do the Directions apply?

As per Clause 8.9 (and Schedule 1) the business can not allow a worker onsite (this includes contractors and visitors) that has not provided a copy of proof of vaccination/booking/exemption – the business must keep a copy of the evidence of vaccination/booking/exemption and provide to inspectors on request.

  • First Dose – 22/10/2021 – all workers must have vaccination or exemption
  • Second Dose – 26/11/2021

Valid Exemptions

In line with the changes announced 28/10/2021 requiring all Exemptions to be in a new and specific format, all fuel transport, admin and retail operators are reminded to review their Vaccine Registers and to seek the updated Australian Immunisation Register Medical Exemption Form from any staff that are listed on the Register as having presented an exemption prior to 28/10/2021.  There is a grace period until 13/11/2021, after this date any person who is working onsite must either have had at least one dose of vaccine and have shown the businesses evidence of this, or have an valid exemption in the new format and have shown the business evidence of this.  After 13/11/2021 old exemption formats are no longer valid and workers onsite may lead to breaches for the business and the worker.

Vaccination Registers

Businesses are required to collect Vaccination Information for workers attending site.  As per 8.7 Vaccination Information is; “information about a person’s vaccination status and includes information that is derived from a record of information that was made under, or in accordance with, the Australian Immunisation Register Act 2015”.  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  22/10/2021 and 26/11/2021.
  • 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 Victorian Vaccination for Authorised Workers 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 22/10/2021 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 22/10/2021 deadline and 26/11/2021 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”

Mandatory Vaccination Q & A

  • Q:  Does the business need to keep a copy of the vaccination? – No.  As outlined above and in 8.7 of the Direction, 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 up to $10,904.40.
  • 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 fine of $109,044 per instance would apply.
  • Q:  We are recruiting, can we put “must be vaccinated (or have a booking for first dose by 22/10/2021 or exemption) on the Job Ad? – Yes…BUT ONLY IN VIC!!!!!  The VIC 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%? – No.  The Premier has outlined that the vaccinated economy structure, of which the vaccination mandate is a major part, will be around “at least until the end of 2022” .

Exposure Response

Vaccination status also impacts on the requirements that will apply when a staff member is exposed to an infected person.  See; https://acapmag.com.au/2021/10/vic-exposure-response-framework-changes/ for detailed exploration of the exposure responses in VIC including examples as applied to the fuel retail environment.  It is noted that in most common fuel retail settings, if the employee is fully vaccinated and distancing and mask wearing is maintained, that the employee is likely to be classed as a Low Risk Contact who will need to monitor for symptoms but will not be required to isolate.  The actual classification of the employee will depend on the specific circumstances of the exposure.

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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