In this article, we outline how the new Pandemic (Workplace) Order 2022 impacts employers and those working in disability and healthcare.

Over the weekend of 18 June, the Victorian Government announced a range of changes to its Pandemic Orders to take effect 11:59pm on 24 June 2022.

One of the major changes made was to lift the requirement for a range of Victorian workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to work outside their homes. The new requirements are set out in the new Pandemic (Workplace) Order 2022 (No. 9).

The changes come earlier than expected, as the previous Order was set to expire on 12 July 2022.

Many workers (including many private sector, public sector and local government workers) captured by the previous Order no longer need to double-dose vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to work outside their homes.

Which workers are covered by the new Orders?

The current Order applies to employers employing disability workers, custodial workers and emergency service workers to ensure those workers are triple-dose vaccinated if working outside the home. The Order also requires healthcare facilities, residential aged care facilities and specialist school facilities to ensure workers are triple-dose vaccinated if working outside the home. It is understood that legislation will be introduced by the Victorian government in due course to require this group of workers to maintain up to date vaccination status.

Check the classification of workers if you have any connection with disability or healthcare

Employers who work with vulnerable people may be captured by the Order so they will need to review the wording in the Order to determine any employees fall into these specified categories and ensure that they continue to comply with the requirements.

The definition of a disability worker, for example, captures a wide-range of workers who directly provide, or supervise and manage the provision of, a disability service.

Healthcare workers include those engaged to perform healthcare services, administrative or ancillary work, ambulance and patient transport services or retail work at a healthcare facility.

What is being lifted?

The scope of “specified workers” and industries captured by the previous Orders has been reduced significantly. There is no longer a broad need for workers in accommodation, construction, airports, food distribution, higher education, the public sector or retail (to name just a few), to be fully vaccinated to work on-site. These workers will be now able to work outside their ordinary place of residence regardless of their vaccination status.

The requirement for other local government and public sector workers to have 2 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine to be able to work outside their homes has also been lifted . These workers will be able to work outside their ordinary place of residence regardless of their vaccination status unless the employer has a separate policy in place preventing these employees from attending the workplace unless they are vaccinated.

What this means for Employers who are not covered by the new Order?

Employers may be considering whether they will keep or introduce their own COVID-19 vaccination policies based on a risk assessment of the risk of COVID-19 particular to their workplaces.

For employers that have commenced show cause and termination processes for unvaccinated employees who are now no longer covered by the Order, the changes means you can no longer rely on government regulatory requirements to support such processes if the employee’s employment is still on foot. These disciplinary processes and any vaccination requirements you wish to keep or introduce will now need to rely on your internal policies. Any new mandatory vaccination policy you intend to introduce will need to undergo a thorough consultation process prior to implementation, consistent with the Fair Work Commission decision in CFMMEU v Mt Arthur Coal.