Boosting workplace vaccinations – who needs a third dose?
By Bianca Mazzarella
4 February 2022
Many of us welcomed the New Year either struck down with COVID-19 or cancelling holiday plans in an effort to dodge the virus. This huge surge in COVID-19 cases and an overwhelmed health system has led Premier Daniel Andrews to turn to our next layer of defence –vaccinations boosters.
What are the new vaccine mandates?
Beginning 12 January 2022, workers over 18 years of age in essential fields, unless they have a medical exemption, are now required to have their third dose to continue working on site. This does not only apply to employees but also to contractors, volunteers and students on placement.
The following workers are subject to the vaccination mandate:
- Residential aged care facility workers;
- Healthcare and disability workers;
- Custodial workers;
- Emergency service workers;
- Meat and seafood processing workers;
- Quarantine accommodation workers; and
- Food distribution workers.
Those who were eligible for their booster vaccine on or before 12 January 2022 have until 12 February 2022 to get their third dose. Those who were not eligible will have until 12 March 2022 with the exception of Residential Aged Care facility workers which have until 1 March 2022 and Health care workers which will have until 29 March 2021.
As of 25 January 2022, Education workers are also subject to the new vaccination mandate (Pandemic COVID-19 Mandatory Vaccination (Specified Facilities) Order 2022 (No 3)) which stipulates that all education workers (including early childhood and education services) are to receive a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to be on site. Those that became fully vaccinated on or before 25 October 2021 must receive their booster shot by 25 February 2022. For workers that became fully vaccinated after 25 October 2021, the deadline is 15 March 2022.
Although vaccination requirements to work are no longer new, the prospect of the booster vaccine being mandated has been more controversial. This is especially as the Federal government is still maintaining their position of the third dose being optional.
However, the Fair Work Ombudsman (‘FWO’) continues to support each State and Territory’s individual health directions. Employers in the relevant industries should therefore update their workplace policies to reflect these new rules.
What if an employee refuses to be vaccinated?
There are a few options to consider, which we have answered here. Note that an employee who falls into any of the above worker classifications will not be able to return to work unless they have received the third dose, in which case an employer may consider disciplinary action. However, it is important to consider that an employee may have a potential unfair dismissal or general protections claim and to always obtain legal advice before taking any disciplinary action.
Please do not hesitate to contact our employment team (Simon Abraham, Amy La Verde, Bianca Mazzarella) if your business needs further guidance or support in relation to third booster vaccinations and/or associated COVID-19 vaccination policies.
The above does not constitute legal advice, but is information which may be of general interest. Tisher Liner FC Law will not be held liable or responsible for any claim, which is made as a result of any person relying upon the information contained in this publication.
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