South Australia last week issued government orders requiring COVID vaccination for workers in the health sector. Victoria also introduced mandatory vaccination for workers in a wide range of industries. Most states in Australia now have some form of obligatory vaccination – are you ready to police it lawfully, and are you ready for the inevitable resistance?
On 7 October, South Australia issued the Emergency Management (Healthcare Setting Workers Vaccination) (COVID-19) Direction 2021. This requires all persons engaging in work or duties at a healthcare setting to be vaccinated. It includes clinicians, ambulance workers, allied health workers, cleaners, administrative and executive staff and students undertaking placement, regardless of whether they work in a patient or a non-patient area. A first dose is required by 1 November 2021.
Also on 7 October, Victoria published the COVID-19 Mandatory Vaccination (Workers) Directions and the updated COVID-19 Mandatory Vaccination (Specified Facilities) Directions (No 6). The effect of these directions is that a broad range of workers are now required to be vaccinated or have evidence of an exemption. For a majority of these workers, the requirements commence from 22 October 2021 (for the first dose).
Western Australia has recently announced that similar requirements will be imposed for the mining and resources sector.
The above is not an exhaustive list. Employers should not use this note as a statement of all current mandatory vaccination requirements, but ensure they are aware and up to date on their obligations.
What employers must do
These orders place onerous obligations on employers to ensure and have records of compliance by staff (and in some cases visitors, contractors and volunteers). They all contain specified exemption grounds, which require assessment on an individual basis.
You must understand how the orders affect your workplace, and commence a consultation, education and enforcement planning as soon as possible.
Be prepared for staff refusal and resistance. We have seen proforma letters from staff given to their employers making irrelevant and impractical demands on employers. It will be important to stay focussed on your compliance obligations, not the wider moral and ethical debate.
Many employers are coming to terms with the staff shortages that will follow when refusing employees are prohibited from working. This could have a serious operational impact.
Despite the public health orders providing a valid reason for an employer direction, employers will still need:
lawful means of obtaining evidence of vaccination;
consultation compliant with industrial instruments; and
a procedurally fair process prior to any termination if an employee refuses to comply with a government direction.
Mandatory vaccination requirements by governments throughout Australia are changing frequently. It is crucial that employers stay up to date on their state or territory government’s requirements so that they are aware of and can comply with their obligations. EMA Consulting can help
Our team can help employers with practical and compliant processes, including notices and letters to employees. We have experience in dealing with employees who refuse to be vaccinated. If you require further information or advice, please contact your Consultant.
EMA Live Webinar
On Wednesday 20 October 2021, at 9:00 am, EMA Consulting will host a live, interactive webinar Mandatory workplace vaccinations: where do I stand?
Details and how to register please see the link.
 Acting Chief Health Officer (Victoria), COVID-19 Mandatory Vaccination (Workers) Directions (7 October 2021) sch 1.
 'COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for FIFO and other resources sector workers', Western Australian Government (Web Page, 6 October 2021) <https://www.wa.gov.au/government/announcements/covid-19-vaccine-mandatory-fifo-and-other-resources-sector-workers>.
EMA Consulting is not a law firm and therefore does not provide legal advice or services. The information contained within this document and associated material is general in nature and should not be relied upon. If you require specific advice on a particular matter, we recommend that you contact EMA Consulting on 08 8203 1700. Subject to the matter at hand, your EMAC Consultant may recommend that you obtain formal legal advice. If formal legal advice is required, upon your written instruction EMAC will brief your matter to a legal practitioner for this purpose. The contents of this document and associated materials do not represent legal advice.