The Queensland Chief Health Officer (CHO) has in recent weeks issued official directions concerning workplace vaccination requirements in the hospitality and health sectors. Workers in the health sector must have been double vaccinated by 15 December 2021 and those in the hospitality sector must be by 17 December 2021. Many state public servants and associated contractors are also required to be vaccinated. There are limited exemptions from these directions. These requirements are separate to the ability of private sector employers generally to give lawful and reasonable directions in relation to vaccination. Consultation requirements do not apply to these government directions.

Most recently, the CHO has on 11 December 2021 issued an official Direction concerning workers in “high risk settings”. These are defined as early childhood, primary and secondary education settings, corrective services facilities, police watch houses and certain areas of airports. The Direction requires that workers must not enter or work in the high risk setting unless they have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by 17 December 2021 and a second dose by 11.59pm on 23 January 2022.  Employers must appoint a “responsible person” who is legally responsible for the implementation of the direction. This will normally be a CEO or board chair. “Worker” is defined as including both employees and contractors (as well as volunteers, work placement students and others). Workers are required to show evidence to their employer of having received their COVID-19 doses. This can include a vaccine card, Check In Qld App vaccine information or a COVID-19 certificate from the Australian Immunisation Register. Employers must treat this information in accordance with privacy requirements.  It is compulsory for all workers and employers to comply with the direction and there are penalties of up to $13,785 or 6 months imprisonment for failure to do so.

Under this Direction, workers do not have to be vaccinated if they only access a part of the service, business or activity which does not share facilities and staff with the high risk area. The area must:
a. be unoccupied by users and workers of the high-risk setting; and
b. be physically separate from the occupied part of the high-risk setting or be secured and delineated so that users and workers of the high-risk setting cannot enter; and
c. not have shared points of access with the users and workers of the high-risk setting; and
d. not be accessed by a person who uses the facilities (for example, toilets or lunchroom) in the high-risk setting.

There are 2 areas of exemption that may apply to organisations subject to this direction. If there is a critical workforce shortage which compromises the ability of the organisation to deliver its services, then unvaccinated workers can continue to be used for up to 1 month where:
a. the risk to other persons in the business is assessed;
b. PPE is used by the worker; and
c. the worker undertakes a PCR test before starting work each day and provides the test results as soon as possible.

There is also the ability for employers to continue to use workers who have a “medical contraindication” ie a medical condition. The Direction defines a medical contraindication as a temporary or permanent contraindication that is notified to the Australian Immunisation Register by an eligible doctor completing the required medical exemptions form. Where a worker produces a COVID-19 vaccine medical exemption recorded on the Australian Immunisation Register, then the employer can consider the risk on a case by case basis. A risk assessment should be prepared. If satisfied the risk is manageable, then the Direction requires that the worker undertake a PCR test before starting work each day and provide a negative test result and use PPE in the workplace.  Unlike the direction relating to hospitality style businesses, this direction about high risk settings does not apply to customers and visitors.

You can access the CHO’s “COVID-19 Vaccination Requirements for Workers in a high-risk setting Direction” here.   The other primary directions by the CHO for private sector workers are the “Public Health and Social Measures linked to vaccination status Direction”  and “Workers in a healthcare setting (COVID-19 Vaccination Requirements) Direction”These are of course general comments only and with particular application to Queensland. The directions should be reviewed for their detail. Please contact us if you would like any further information or help.

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