As of midnight last night (7 October 2021), all Victorian workers who are scheduled to work outside their ordinary place of residence on or after 15 October 2021 (authorised workers) are now required to receive the COVID-19 vaccination.
Who is affected by the vaccination mandate?
The Directions apply to an extensive list of authorised providers and workers, including higher education workers, manufacturing workers, professional services workers, public sector employees and many more.
The Directions impose three broad obligations on employers in relation to collecting, recording and holding vaccination information, prohibiting unvaccinated workers from working outside their ordinary place of residence (with some exceptions), and communicating these obligations to workers.
Workers with existing requirements under existing CHO directions, such as those in residential aged care, construction, healthcare and education industries, must comply with previous directions (now the COVID-19 Mandatory Vaccination (Specified Facilities) Directions (No 6)) which specify separate deadlines for first and second vaccination dose.
What has to be done, when and how?
All authorised workers must have their first COVID-19 vaccination dose by 15 October 2021 (or have a booking by 22 October 2021) and be fully vaccinated by 26 November 2021, unless an exception applies.
This can be done through State-run sites, at GPs and at pharmacies, which now provide Pfizer and Moderna to those aged 12 to 59, and AstraZeneca to those aged 18 to 59.
Expectations for employers in Victoria
As soon as reasonably practicable by 15 October 2021 employers must collect, record and hold information about their workers' vaccination status.
If an authorised worker is "unvaccinated", the employer needs to obtain evidence that the authorised worker has a booking to receive their first dose by 22 October 2021. If the authorised worker is "partially vaccinated", the employer needs evidence that the authorised worker has a booking to receive their second dose by 26 November 2021.
If the employer does not hold a worker's vaccination status information by 15 October, it must assume the person is unvaccinated.
Prohibition of unvaccinated workers
An employer must not permit unvaccinated authorised workers to work outside their ordinary place of residence on or after 15 October 2021, unless one of three exceptions applies:
- the worker is booked to receive their first dose by 22 October;
- the worker has been in self-quarantine and has a booking within 7 days of the end of their self-quarantine period; or
- one of the exceptional circumstances listed in the Directions applies.
Communication to workers
As soon as reasonably practicable after the Directions commence, employers must inform current and new authorised workers of their obligations to provide vaccination information, and also the prohibition of unvaccinated workers.
Where to from here?
The Directions announcement has been controversial and we anticipate several challenges to the new obligations over the next weeks and months. For example, Cetnar v State of Victoria is scheduled for trial on 25 October 2021 and the topic recently divided a Full Bench of the Fair Work Commission in Kimber v Sapphire Coast Community Aged Care Ltd. It is unlikely, however, that any challenges will be heard before the Directions commence.
Varying directions on mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations are now being considered in all States and Territories, including the most recent WA mining mandate. Please contact our national team if you require advice in relation to those.