In recent times there has been a lot of talk around vaccine mandates in the workplace. 

If you are an employer, it is imperative to the success of your business that you know your role and responsibilities when it comes to mandatory vaccinations. 

As a business owner, the health and safety of your employees must be a priority. 

The amount of information out there can be pretty overwhelming, so let’s break it down clearly and simply. 

What Is The COVID Vaccine Mandate?

The COVID vaccine mandate is the requirement for employees in specific industries to have received the COVID vaccine before returning to work. 

In accordance with Work Health and Safety Laws, employers have a duty to eliminate or minimise the risk of COVID-19 in the workplace. 

The COVID vaccine is a proven safe and effective mechanism to minimise the risk of COVID-19 in the workplace. Whilst a vaccinated person can still unknowingly carry the COVID-19 virus, it is understood that this risk is significantly minimised. 

Although it is heavily encouraged that all Australian citizens receive the COVID vaccine, not all industries have mandated it. 

In accordance with the Federal and NSW Government, the following industry employees are subject to a mandatory COVID vaccine: 

Education and Care Workers 

From 8 November 2021 all education and care workers must be fully vaccinated or have a valid medical exemption to work. 

This mandate includes: 

  • School teachers
  • Early education workers 
  • Family day care workers
  • Contractors and volunteers who work on an education premises 
  • Authorised persons who deliver services to children in home-schooling 
  • In home care providers 
  • Disability workers

Aged Care Workers 

This includes all: 

  • Nursing staff 
  • Office staff 
  • Receptionists 

Health Care Workers 

From 30 November 2021 health care workers must be fully vaccinated unless they obtain a valid medical exemption. 

A healthcare worker includes anybody who works in: 

Airport Workers 

This includes: 

  •  Airport staff 
  • Ground handlers 
  • Cleaners 
  • Caterers 
  • Ramp workers
  • Engineers 
  • People conducting health screening/swabbing of overseas arrivals 
  • Border Control and Biosecurity Staff
  • Transport services individuals who provide transport to crew members, overseas passengers or individuals who require quarantine 

Quarantine Workers

This includes anybody who comes into contact with a quarantine facility or operation in carrying out their occupation such as: 

  • Quarantine staff
  • Police officers 
  • Healthcare staff providing medical treatment or care
  • People providing health screening
  • Transport workers who are transporting quarantine individuals  

What Are Your Duties As An Employer? 

In accordance with Safework Australia, as an employer, you have the duty to take care of the health, safety and welfare of your employees and all customers that enter your workplace. 

More specifically, you have a duty to eliminate or, if that is not reasonably practicable, minimise the risk of COVID-19 in your workplace. 

If your business resides in any of the industries listed above that are required to mandate the COVID vaccine, then you have a duty to ensure this is carried out appropriately. For example, to meet this duty you will require proof of vaccination or a valid medical exemption before your employees enter the workplace. 

If your business resides in an industry where the Federal or NSW Government has not mandated the COVID vaccine, there is not an explicit duty for you to do so. Safework Australia states that you can still ensure that you minimise the risk of COVID-19 in your workplace without mandating the COVID vaccine. 

Other duties that you should be aware of include your: 

  • Duty to your workers 
    • This includes ensuring that you: 
      • Consider working from home options 
      • Require physical distancing in the workplace
      • Provide sanitary and hygiene resources in the workplace
      • Have appropriate PPE available in the workplace
      • Ensure workers stay home if they are sick 
      • Clean the workplace regularly and thoroughly 
  • Duty to other in the workplace
    • This includes customers, visitors and delivery service individuals 
  • Duty to maintain the workplace and facilities
    • This includes regularly cleaning the workplace, restructuring the workplace to ensure the possibility of physical distancing and limiting the amount of people allowed into the workplace 
  • Duty to provide information and training 
    • This includes providing employees with the necessary information surrounding COVID-19 such as the benefit of PPE, properly washing hands and staying home if sick
  • Duty to consult 
    • This includes giving your employees the opportunity to discuss their concerns surrounding COVID-19 and advise workers on best practice in the workplace

How Can I Minimise The Risk Of COVID-19 In The Workplace?

Ways in which you can minimise the risk of COVID-19 in your workplace include: 

  • Undertaking a thorough and detailed risk assessment or COVID-19 safety plan 
  • Assess the effectiveness of control measures in the workplace such as physical distancing, availability of PPE and hygiene products, working from home options
  • Continuously consult with your employees regarding COVID-19 safety measures 
  • Regularly review your risk assessment of COVID-19 safety plan to ascertain what control measures are reasonably practical for you and your business 
  • Ensure that you are complying with all Government requirements 

If you do not already have a detailed risk assessment or COVID-19 safety plan in place, it is imperative that you implement one as soon as practicably possible. This will help ensure that you meet your duties as an employer, comply with all Government requirements and protect the health and safety of your employees and customers. 

Other ways to ensure a COVID-safe workplace can be found here

My Employee Is Refusing To Get The COVID Vaccine, What Do I Do?

If your business in an industry where the Federal or NSW Government requires all of your  employees to be fully vaccinated then any unvaccinated employee is unable to return to work until they are fully vaccinated. 

If your business is not in an industry where mandatory COVID vaccinations are required then it is best practice to consult your detailed risk assessment or COVID-19 safety plan to assess ways in which you can minimise the risk of COVID-19 with your unvaccinated employee returning to work. 

If your business is caught failing to abide by a Public Health Order in relation to COVID-19, your business can face a $5000 on the spot fine. 

The onus is upon you as a business owner and employer to ensure that you are abiding by all Government requirements and COVID-safe practices. 

Need More Help?

It is imperative to the success of your business that you are across all that is required of you as an employer. This includes having the most up to date work, health and safety policies, and other workplace practices. 

If you need help reviewing your business policies, or employee contracts we can help you out. 

Reach out to our team for a free, no-obligations chat at team@sprintlaw.com.au or 1800 730 61. 

About Sprintlaw

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