Directions have been made by the Acting Chief Health Officer making mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations a requirement for staff to work in schools (including school boarding premises), childcare and early childhood services in Victoria.
The Directions apply to ‘education operators’, being those who own, control or operate an education facility – a childcare or early childhood service, a school and school boarding premises.
The Directions also apply to ‘education workers’, who include:
Schools and early childhood centres must inform each worker who is, or may be, scheduled to work at the education facility on or after 18 October 2021 that they must collect, record and hold the following vaccination information about the worker’s vaccination status as one of the following:
Workers are not required to provide education operators with any of the information that the Directions require those operators to request. However, education workers who do not provide the required information by the specified dates will not be permitted to enter, or remain on your premises for the purpose of working. This may also have consequences for their ongoing employment if they are employees.
Education operators must take all reasonable steps to ensure that, on or after 18 October 2021, a worker who is unvaccinated does not enter, or remain on, the education facility for the purposes of working. However, an unvaccinated worker may be permitted to attend for work between 18 October and 25 October 2021 if they have a booking to receive a first dose by 25 October.
Workers will also have to be fully vaccinated by 29 November 2021 to be permitted entry to the workplace for the purpose of working.
A worker will be an ‘excepted person’ under the Directions if:
The Directions do not provide a definition or examples of what would amount to an acute medical illness. It seems that this will be left to the expertise of the relevant medical practitioner.
A certification in relation to an acute illness will be effective until the earlier of the date specified by the medical practitioner or the date six months from the date the certification was given by the medical practitioner.
A medical contraindication is a specific contraindication to the administration of a COVID-19 vaccine that is outlined in the Directions. It includes:
The Directions also list specific reactions to named COVID-19 vaccines that will also amount to a medical contraindication.
There is no exemption under the Directions for employees to object to vaccinations on religious grounds or because of their personal views about vaccinations.
Education operators must keep the necessary records to demonstrate compliance with the Directions, including records of the vaccination information that they have collected. The Directions note that vaccination information may be recorded in a variety of documents, such as a letter from a medical practitioner, a certificate of immunisation or an immunisation history statement obtained from the Australian Immunisation Register.
Education operators will also be required to provide access to these records to an Authorised Officer under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 (Vic) if requested to do so to demonstrate compliance with the Directions.
We recommend that education operators take the following steps as soon as practicable to ensure that you are complying with the Directions, to keep your workers fully informed of what they are being requested to do and to appropriately manage the personal information that will be collected from your employees:
Education operators should also refer to the full terms of the relevant Directions to ensure they comply with their obligations – COVID-19 Mandatory Vaccination (Specified Facilities) Directions (No 6).
Gadens is able to assist you with all of these steps and with any queries you may have in relation to your obligations under the Directions.
For details of all our COVID-19 tips and updates, visit the Gadens COVID-19 Hub.
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Steven Troeth, Partner
Claire Duggan, Associate