COVID-19 booster vaccinations at work – a state of change

10 March 2022

While public health orders can be complex and confusing, it is important that employers understand their obligations to remain compliant. The Victorian Chamber can help you make sense of these requirements.

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The health orders we are living under are changing, and this change is a constant in all our lives.

Masks on, masks off.

Dancing allowed, not allowed, then allowed again.

Employer obligations around workplace vaccination are continuously shifting too.

Given this constant state of change, it is important for employers to stay up-to-date with the latest health orders. These orders include rules around when employers must collect vaccination status information from their employees.

While it is easy to think you are comfortable with your obligations under the orders, it is important to regularly revisit them to ensure there haven’t been any updates.

A recent development in the orders has been the introduction of a requirement that employers in certain industries collect COVID-19 vaccination booster information from staff.

If employers don’t collect this information, they are obliged to ensure the relevant employee does not perform work for the employer outside of their ordinary place of residence from the dates set out in the orders.

For people who were fully vaccinated on or before 12 September 2021, information about their vaccination booster status needed to be collected before 12 February 2022. For individuals who were fully vaccinated after 12 September 2021, the information must be collected before 12 March 2022.

Employers face significant penalties ($54,522 for companies and $10,904.40 for individuals) if they don’t obtain the necessary information or if they allow their staff to come to work after the relevant dates and the necessary information has not been collected.

The Victorian Chamber has been supporting employers with the implementation of health orders in the workplace since September 2021, when mandatory vaccination requirements first began to apply in some sectors.

Over this time, we have learned that it is vital for employers to ensure they are working from the current version of the relevant health orders.

A common pitfall is when employers try to interpret these very technical orders without assistance. This can lead to misunderstanding of obligations and, inadvertently, requirement breaches.

Employers must also remain aware that the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) continues to apply to them, even though the health orders impose employment obligations on employers. For example, some employers have fallen into the trap of thinking the unfair dismissal regime won’t apply and is somehow “trumped” by the health orders. This is not correct. It is still crucial to have regard for the Fair Work Act and other sources of employment obligation (such as anti-discrimination legislation) when seeking to implement the orders.

To find out more about your obligations under the health orders, and how the Victorian Chamber can assist you to comply with your obligations, call our Workplace Relations Advice Line on 03 8662 5222.

The State Government has a compilation of current and historical versions of the health orders which can be found here.

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