Legal Insights

Vaccine mandates for Victoria: all you need to know this week

By Catherine Dunlop, Ali Gallaher, Gerard Twomey

• 01 October 2021 • 3 min read

This week has seen a number of significant developments in relation to mandatory vaccination against COVID-19 in Victoria. We summarise those developments below.

Authorised Workers, healthcare & education workers to be captured by vaccine mandate in updated directions

Today, the Premier announced that all Authorised Workers will be required to have received a first dose by 15 October and a second dose by 26 November, in order to continue work on site. We expect the COVID-19 Mandatory Vaccination Directions will be updated to reflect this shortly.

This follows an update to the COVID-19 Mandatory Vaccination Directions on Thursday which requires:

  • Operators of healthcare facilities to collect relevant worker vaccination details and prevent entry of unvaccinated workers (who don’t have a medical exemption or booking before the first dose deadline) by 15 October – the first dose deadline is 29 October and the second dose deadline is 15 December.
  • Operators of education facilities to collect relevant worker vaccination details and prevent entry of unvaccinated workers (who don’t have a medical exemption or booking before the first dose deadline) by 18 October – the first dose deadline is 25 October and the second dose deadline is 15 December.

Full Bench dissent vigorously opposed to mandatory vaccinations

  • On Monday, the Full Bench of the Fair Work Commission handed down its decision in Kimber v Sapphire Coast Community Aged Care Ltd [2021] FWCFB 6015 - an appeal of an unfair dismissal decision regarding mandatory influenza vaccinations about which we shared some insights on in a previous alert. The majority refused permission to appeal on the basis that Ms Kimber was not able to demonstrate a medical contraindication to the influenza vaccine.
  • In a dissenting decision, Deputy President Dean shared her strong views against mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations in workplaces. These comments will no doubt be referred to by employees and others who oppose mandatory vaccinations, and we’ve already seen this quoted by employees on the basis that it is binding authority.
  • We will provide a further detailed update on this case next week.

What is the key takeaway for Victorian employers from this eventful week?

We recommend employers focus on proactive communication with employees about developments which already affect their employment, or which may do so in the future. This is an express requirement of the Chief Health Officer directions and consistent with the obligations upon all employers to consult about health and safety risks. This is also an opportunity for employers to share information about risk controls in your workplaces, and to reassure workers about the advantages of vaccinations (and vaccine mandates if you are subject to them or have implemented them for your employees).

These changes are coming thick and fast and, with the addition of Authorised Workers, will affect a huge number of businesses. Implementation of these mandates is out of employers’ hands – but a well-informed workforce will be better prepared to adapt as these mandates come into force.

Do you need assistance with these changes, in particular with managing employees who oppose vaccination and refer to DP Dean’s dissent to give weight to their position?

Please get in touch with our Employment, Safety and People Team.

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