Over the last few weeks both the NSW Government and the Federal Government have introduced a number of measures relating to combatting COVID-19 in the workplace. In this article we explain some of the key recent developments.
Employees and NSW Areas of Concern
Currently, a person must not enter an “area of concern” to carry out work unless they have a permit issued by Service NSW.
In addition, an “authorised worker” must not leave an area of concern without a permit issued by Service NSW. Authorised workers are those carrying out various services deemed to be essential in the community – a full list is available.
From 6 September 2021, in order to work outside their area of concern, authorised workers must now have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Rapid antigen testing will no longer be an alternative to vaccination.
There are limited exceptions to this rule, including if the person has a “medical contraindication certificate” (i.e. a certificate certifying that they cannot be vaccinated on health grounds).
Employers and occupiers of premises will be able to require an authorised worker with proof of their vaccination status. Employees who are unable to attend work as a result of not being vaccinated will generally not be entitled to be paid.
Federal Government to introduce “no-fault” vaccine compensation scheme
The Federal Government has announced a new compensation scheme for anyone who suffers serious side effects of COVID vaccination, including employees. The scheme will be administered by Services Australia who will start administering claims from 6 September 2021.
The scheme appears to provide more generous compensation than an employee would be entitled to under a workers compensation scheme (there are planned to be no caps on loss of income claims, for example). This will be welcome news for employers who face increases to their workers compensation premiums if an injured employee makes a claim against the employer’s workers compensation insurance policy.
The scheme is likely to encourage more employers to promote or mandate vaccinations for their employees (and/or to consider introducing vaccination facilities at the workplace), as the availability of the scheme will mean that an employee who was injured as a result of a vaccination being facilitated or required by their employer would be less likely to rely on workers compensation to cover loss of income.
Mandatory vaccines for school staff and health care workers in NSW
School staff and health care workers are the latest on the list of workers who must be vaccinated in NSW in order to perform work, with the NSW Government recently announcing that teachers and other school staff must be fully vaccinated by 8 November 2021.
In addition, from 30 September 2021, health care workers in NSW must have received at least one dose of a COVID 19 vaccine in order to perform work. Then from 30 November 2021, health care workers must have had two doses of a COVID 19 vaccine
Again, there are limited exceptions, such as where a health care worker produces a medical contraindication certificate.
The requirements relate to employees working in both the public and private health care systems.
Need further help?
If you need further help on any of the matters raised in this article please contact EI Legal.