The second dose deadline date for Category 1 and 3 workers is just over a month old but already businesses are seeking information on how the impending Booster deadline will impact their already stretched staffing levels. This weeks HR Highlight will explore the operation of the NT Booster Mandate and lay out practical steps to take now to ensure that the business is not caught short when the deadline hits.
Vaccine Mandate Recap
The Northern Territory Vaccine Mandate, announced on 15/9/2021, mandated that certain staff must be able to demonstrate that they are fully vaccinated by 24/12/2021 in order to be allowed at the workplace.
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
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 Vaccination – One 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.
- Simple Sight Register of Contractors/Site Visitor Vaccination – Contractors 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 their full vaccination by 24/12/2021 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 Booster deadline of 22/4/2022. 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”
A few short weeks from that second dose deadline NT businesses are now facing the complicated task of managing the requirement for all Category 1 and 3 workers to have received their Booster by 22/4/202. This change, so soon after the 2 dose mandate deadline, has caused some confusion.
This confusion is understandable, as is the frustration that businesses are feeling with the constantly moving goal posts.
Currently, anyone aged 18 years and older who had their second dose more than 3 months ago is eligible for their Booster.
Practical Considerations for Business
“The variability between when an employee received their second dose, when they are eligible for their Booster and when the Booster mandate applies can be problematic to manage” explains ACAPMAs Elisha Radwanowski.
“The Booster deadline has been set to line up with a situation where if the employee received their second dose on the day of the second dose deadline, then they would have four weeks after becoming eligible to receive the booster in which to arrange for the shot, and provide/show evidence to the business, so it is possible with such a lead time” adds Elisha.
ACAPMA has been hearing is a series of what if question including;
- What if the employee was not hired until late January 2022 and they only got their second dose on the 30th of January…will that mean that they cannot work after 22nd of April? – The answer is that the employee will not be eligible for the Booster on 22nd of April, so they will be allowed to work. However, they will be eligible on 30th of April, so they will need to ensure they get their Booster booked and administered as close to that date to ensure that they can come to work
- Does this mean that the business has to check everyone’s vaccination status again? – Yes, but unlike other jurisdictions, where the date that the employee is required to have the Booster is set based on the date of the second dose, in NT, during the transition period all staff are given until 22nd April 2022 to get their Booster, so the business should ensure that it is writing to staff to let them know of the requirement, and then can simply do a check of all Booster evidence in early April and a follow up on 21st of April.
- Do I have to write to my staff again? – Yes, ideally the business should write to the staff now, so that they can plan and book their boosters
As you are aware as Category 1/3 workers you are subject to the Vaccination Mandate from the NT Government. This mandate has expanded to include a requirement for all Category 1/3 workers to show evidence of having received their Booster shot by 22/4/2022.
As with the 1st and 2nd dose requirements, the business is not legally allowed to let you work onsite if you cannot show compliance with this law. So please take the opportunity now to book in for your booster shot https://coronavirus.nt.gov.au/stay-safe/booking-your-covid-19-vaccine .
For more information on the mandate, including the mandating of boosters please see; https://coronavirus.nt.gov.au/business-and-work/mandatory-vaccinations#:~:text=All%20workers%20under%20the%20mandatory,vaccine%20by%2011%20March%202022.
As with the previous mandate the business will be asking to see evidence of compliance with this legal requirement, if you are not able to demonstrate compliance (either through vaccination or exemption) your ongoing employment may be impacted due to failure to meet the inherent requirements of the role.
If you have any questions please do not hesitate to reach out.
To get ready for these changes businesses should;
- Communicate now to all staff about the mandate of boosters (some businesses may wish to add another reminder in March 2022)
- Review staff compliance with the booster mandate in early April 2022
- Confirm any late bookings on 20 April 2022
- Review visitor and contractor approach on 20 April 2022
- Plan for any exemptions, late vaccinations
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 firstname.lastname@example.org , 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)