Update on mandatory vaccinations

On Wednesday 27 October 2021, NECA WA attended the first of a number of round tables regarding the mandatory vaccination announcement that was made by the state government last week.

This email does not contain the definitive final details regarding WA’s vaccination program as this is still being finalised by the government. After this morning’s meeting, however, we are confident that there will not be any major changes made to it.

A number of issues were discussed. Below is a summary covering the main topics.

Q: Is the government open to changing the mandated vaccination policy back to the voluntary vaccination model?

A: No. The mandatory nature of the program will certainly not change. It was made very clear this morning that the health advice provided to the government on this issue surpasses any other considerations that may have been raised by organisations such as NECA.

Q: Do all staff have to be vaccinated?

A: There is no black and white answer to this so perhaps it is best to give some electrical industry context to it. If your staff routinely attend a site covered by the announcement (e.g. mine sites, schools or sites undertaking building / maintenance / construction), then yes, all staff must be vaccinated.

However, if any of your “non-site” staff either regularly attend site or regularly come into contact with on-site staff, then they will also need to be vaccinated. 

Essentially, the only staff who may not have to be vaccinated are those who are physically isolated from your on-site staff and have no contact with them. However, given that in most companies, staff who work on-site regularly interact with office staff, it is most likely that all members of staff will be required to be vaccinated.

Q: Can I terminate the employment of staff who are not vaccinated?

A: Yes. In fact, you will be in breach of the order if you continue to employ staff beyond the deadline that you know are not vaccinated, unless they have an exemption. Detailed information of what exemptions will be granted is not yet available.

Please be aware that you cannot terminate an employee until the deadline for the first vaccination has passed. An initial refusal to get the vaccination is not of itself a valid cause for termination. You must allow staff until the relevant deadline to change their mind and get vaccinated.

You should also be aware that if you are required to terminate an employee, you must still follow the correct termination procedure.

Q: Will there be an extension on the time people have to get vaccinated?

A: No. The government will not be changing the deadlines for vaccination.

Q: Do employees have to share their COVID-19 digital certificate with their employer?

Yes.  An employer may require an employee to disclose information about vaccination status without consent if the collection of this information is required or authorised by an Australian law. However, you should take reasonable steps to notify employees of:

  • The purpose of the collection.
  • The consequences if they refuse.
  • Whether the collection is required or authorised by law.
  • How the information may be used or disclosed and how it will be stored.
  • How they can access the information they provided, have it corrected or lodge a complaint concerning how the information is used.

Employees must provide their employer with the certificate to prove that they have been vaccinated. 

However, employers cannot share that certificate with anyone else. If Business A is doing work for Business B and is asked by Business B to for evidence that their staff are vaccinated, Business A cannot share their staff’s vaccination certificates with Business B. In this instance, Business A can provide a letter confirming that all of their staff are vaccinated. Please be aware that if this letter provides information that is false, then the company providing the false information will be in breach and liable for heavy fines. 

Q: When will the official Public Health Order (PHO) be made?

A: No definite date has been set for this. However, the government has the legal authority to make such an order pursuant to the Public Health Act 2016 and it must be complied with. We expect the detail of the PHO to be very similar to the government’s initial announcement. Given no extensions will be made to the vaccination deadline, we suggest that members take a pragmatic approach and make preparations to meet the deadlines to ensure your business complies with the order by the deadline.

NECA is attending another round table on Friday 29 October 2021 and will provide further information to members following this meeting.

If you have any further questions on this announcement, please contact NECA WA on (08) 6241 6100.

Disclaimer: This notice is a general guide only and does not constitute legal advice.