COVID-19 Employees and Vaccinations Guide 2021 (Rest of AUS)
The Australian, Queensland and WA Governments released new orders about employees and vaccinations. Read current rules mandating the vaccine.
Recently, the Queensland and WA Governments have released public health directions relating to employees and vaccinations. It is important to note that each State and Territory has their own rules and directions relating to employees and vaccinations. Currently, there are directions that apply to NSW, Queensland and WA. Also, the Australian Government has released its own directions, applying to all States and Territories across Australia.
Can I make my employees get vaccinated?
Many State and Territory Governments have made announcements concerning employees and vaccinations. This is a topic that will continue to develop as the weeks and months go by. Currently, it is likely that most employers may not be able to make their employees receive a vaccination. However, both the Federal and State Governments have directed specific workplaces or industries to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. It is extremely important to note that the rules, public health orders and legislation differ between each State and Territory.
(1) Mandating the vaccine through Legislation or Public Health Orders
On 28 June 2021, the National Cabinet decided that the COVID-19 vaccine is now mandatory for all residential aged care workers. A residential aged care worker is any person working in an aged care facility. Specifically, the Cabinet stated that by mid-September 2021 these aged care workers must have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. This public health direction applies to all aged care facilities in all Australian States and Territories.
To view a full copy of this National Cabinet media release, see National Cabinet Statement.
The Queensland Government has issued public health orders that mandate a COVID-19 vaccine for employees in the following Health Service workplaces, including:
- Queensland Hospital operators and employees with COVID-19 patients or quarantined persons,
- Health Service operators, employees and contractors who may have direct contact with a COVID-19 patient,
- Queensland Ambulance Service employees and contractors who may transport COVID-19 patients or quarantined persons to hospital.
Western Australian Government
The Western Australian Government has issued public health orders that mandate a COVID-19 vaccine for employees working within the hotel quarantine system, including:
- Security personnel, cleaners and hotel staff,
- Medical and health staff,
- Australia Defence Force and Western Australian Police working within a quarantine system.
(2) Other methods of mandating the vaccine
The COVID-19 vaccine may be able to be made mandatory through (1) Contracts and Agreements and (2) ‘Lawful and Reasonable’ directions.
However, this may not be an option for all employers. An employers ability to mandate a COVID-19 vaccine could rely on the type of work being done, the industry or workplace, whether they are in close contact with infected or quarantined patients etc. For instance, it may only be possible for employers to mandate the vaccine if the government deems those workers to have an elevated risk of infection, e.g. Airport workers.
For more information, see the headings: Mandating the vaccine through agreements and contracts, and Mandating the vaccine through ‘Lawful and Reasonable’ direction in our article ‘Employees and Vaccinations (NSW)‘.
Do I need to offer special leave arrangements for side effects of the vaccine?
Employers may pay their employees sick leave if they feel unwell after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine and thus cannot work. Employees cannot take sick leave just because they choose to take a COVID-19 vaccination. Sick leave is only available when an employee is unfit for work because of illness or injury.
If your employee is a full-time or part-time employee and they cannot work as they feel unwell, the employee must:
- Give notice they will be taking sick leave as soon as practicably possible,
- Give a reasonable time frame as to how long they cannot attend work,
- Must provide evidence that they are not fit to work, if asked by their employer.
Alternatively, if your employee has no remaining sick leave, you may decide to allow your employee to access other leave entitlements, like annual leave or unpaid leave. Employers should always check their obligations under any awards, enterprise agreements, employment contracts or leave policies. These instruments and agreements could provide additional rules relating to an employee’s leave entitlements.
However, if your employee is a casual employee and they cannot work as they feel unwell, the employee should not receive sick leave pay. Alternatively, they may receive unpaid leave.
In general, the COVID-19 vaccination is voluntary. However, if you are an employee in the above mentioned workplaces or industries, it is mandatory to receive at least the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccination. However, it is important to note that each State and Territory has different rules relating to mandating the vaccine. Presently, Queensland, Western Australian and NSW are the only States that have issued public health orders mandating the COVID-19 vaccine for certain employees. The Australian Government has agreed that residential aged care workers across Australia must receive their first dose by mid-September 2021. It’s important to keep a look out on more updates and further Government directions. Stay safe everyone!
Mai is a Legal Tech Intern at Lawpath, working as part of the Content Team. She is in her final year of a Bachelor of Laws degree at the University of Wollongong. She is interested in Business and Employment Law.