Workplace vaccination mandates eased

29 June 2022

The Victorian Government recently announced changes to the state’s vaccine mandates.

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Dubbed the “sensible winter settings”, these rules took effect from 11:59pm on Friday 24 June 2022 and have implications for businesses.

What has changed?

The main change for businesses to note is Government-imposed third vaccine dose mandates in education, food distribution, meat and seafood processing and quarantine accommodation sectors have been lifted.

In these and other sectors where mandates have been lifted, vaccination policies become the responsibility of individual workplaces to implement (if they want to, and after following a proper consultation process with staff, more on this below).

What stays the same?

Workers in residential aged care, disability care, healthcare, custodial services, schools that are registered for the main purpose of providing for students with a disability and emergency services still require three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Positive cases still need to isolate for seven days from the day they took their positive test but may now leave home to drive a household member directly to or from education or work as long as they do not leave their vehicle. They can also still leave home to get medical care, a COVID-19 test or in an emergency (including if they are at risk of harm).

Masks still need to be worn on public transport, taxis, ride shares and planes but are no longer required to be worn in airports. Masks are still needed in some sensitive settings (such as hospitals and some care facilities).

What does business need to do?

While not mandated, certain workplaces can still implement vaccination policies. However, you need to read and understand the COVID-19 settings as they apply to your business.

If certain vaccine mandates no longer apply to your workforce, but you want to create a COVID-19 vaccination policy for your business, you need to understand the rules and procedures for doing so safely and legally.

You need to ensure that a direction to be vaccinated or to provide vaccination status information is a lawful and reasonable direction. The pandemic doesn’t automatically make it lawful or reasonable for employers to introduce a mandatory vaccination policy anymore.

Whether the direction is lawful and reasonable will depend on a range of factors to determine whether on balance it would be reasonable to mandate vaccination in your workplace for some or all of your employees.

You also need to consult with your workers, including any health and safety representatives in your business. Workers (including their representatives, which might include a union) need to be given the opportunity to express their views and raise any concerns.

Employers must take employees’ views into account before finalising any policy. It is important to note your business may have consultation obligations arising under a Modern Award, Enterprise Agreement or Employment Contract and it is essential that you understand and comply with any such obligation.

How do I get help?

As we have throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Victorian Chamber is monitoring the Government’s settings and is available to provide advice and assistance to you and your business. You can contact our Workplace relations advice line on 03 8662 5222.

Members can also access our vaccine guide, which sets out detailed information about the current range of COVID-19 measures. This and other COVID-19 resources are available here.

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