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Update on the Government’s stance on mandatory vaccinations and disclosure of vaccination status

Libby Pallot, Walter MacCallum, Anthony Massaro, Ben Tallboys, Abbey Burns, Caitlin Walsh, Meena Iskandar, Natasha Sim. Morgan Smithe & Sophie Cusworth

Since the publication of our Alert 'Can employers make vaccinations and temperature checks mandatory in today’s climate?', the Federal Government has indicated that it is reconsidering its stance on mandatory vaccinations. In a press release from the Prime Minister’s Office, the National Cabinet announced that it has sought further advice Australian Health Protection Principal Committee on the efficacy of a mandatory vaccination scheme. 

In particular, the Cabinet has indicated support for mandating vaccinations in industries servicing vulnerable clients, including the aged care and disability workforce. The Western Australian Premier’s Office has also foreshadowed a mandatory vaccination scheme in the aged care workforce, likely to commence in August. However, until further update from State, Territory or Federal Governments, vaccinations remain voluntary in all industries. 

The Federal Minister for Health has also confirmed that employers in particular industries will be required to report the vaccination status of their workforce. At this stage, residential aged care providers will be required to report how many of their staff have been vaccinated against COVID-19, with a view to providing greater health security for residents. The current Government directive states that workers are not required to disclose if they have received a COVID19 vaccination.

The directive also advises employers and providers to communicate to their workers:

  • Why the information is being collected;
  • That disclosing vaccination status is voluntary;
  • That personal information is not required to be collected in order to report on the vaccination status of the workforce;
  • That information collected will adhere to privacy requirements;
  • That the details of the worker’s personal vaccination status will not be reported to the Department of Health;
  • That COVID-19 vaccination and/or disclosure of vaccination status is not a mandatory requirement under Commonwealth or state and territory law; and
  • That workers’ are entitled to decline to provide this information without any judgement. 
Despite the above, employers should keep in mind that the requirement to disclose vaccination status is likely to be a workplace health and safety issue which, in our view, must be balanced with the current Government directive and will depend on the circumstances. An employer may require an employee to provide sensitive or personal information where the collection is required or authorised by Australian law. However, while the Government directive remains that disclosure is voluntary, we recommend that employers seek legal advice if they wish to mandate disclosure of vaccination status in the workplace for the purposes of reporting obligations.

Employers in all industries, not just those in vulnerable industries, should remain alert to further updates and advice from State, Territory and Federal Governments in this changing environment. Employers can be assured that if a public health order is issued to mandate vaccines or the disclosure of vaccination status, employers can lawfully direct workers to comply for those employees who are covered by the relevant order. 

 

How we can help

The law relating to vaccinations in the workplace is fast-changing and highly fact-specific. Please contact Russell Kennedy’s Workplace Relations, Employment and Safety Team for advice.

If you would like to keep in touch with Alerts and Insights from our Workplace Relations, Employment and Safety team, you can subscribe to our mailing list here.

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