As you will be aware, changes to the COVID-19 response (including both vaccination mandates and My Vaccine Passes) have been announced. These take effect from 11:59pm on Monday 4 April 2022. Below is a quick overview of the key employment implications.
Vaccination mandates for education, police, defence and hospitality/close contact businesses will cease at 11:59pm on Monday 4 April. Mandates will remain in place for health, aged care, corrections and border/MIQ workers.
The effect of the lifting of the mandates will be that from Tuesday 5 April, an employer can no longer require particular work to be performed by a vaccinated individual in reliance on the Order (as, we assume, relevant parts of the Order will be repealed). All this means is that there would no longer be a Government order regarding mandates for education, police and defence work forces and hospitality/close contact businesses. From 5 April, unvaccinated individuals can again perform this work. There is, however, no obligation on employers to hire such individuals (ie you can continue to have a policy not to employ unvaccinated individuals – subject to the same issues like discrimination on the grounds of disability or religion).
Critically – the removal of mandates does not mean that it was wrong to have had mandates in these areas or that employer decisions made under the mandates were unlawful. It also does not mean that terminated employees are automatically reinstated. Any legal challenge to a termination is considered in all the circumstances at the time the dismissal occurred (which would have occurred when there was a mandate in place).
This would also not affect workplace policies that sit outside of the mandates. Such policies are currently lawful (provided they were implemented with a proper process) and will not automatically be unlawful once the Government Orders regarding vaccination mandates are removed.
This would be a good point in time for employers to reassess their own approaches to vaccination and COVID-19 generally, but workplace policies remain lawful even if there are no longer vaccination mandates covering certain work.
Use of My Vaccine Passes
From 11:59pm on Monday 4 April My Vaccine Passes will no longer be required as part of the COVID-19 Protection Framework (traffic light system). The system will be maintained and passes will be updated over time to include boosters. Use will be voluntary (ie it will remain lawful to continue to use My Vaccine Passes – both for employees and the public).
The Prime Minister indicated My Vaccine Passes could become mandatory again in the future, if there are different variants.
Other key (non-employment) points:
COVID-19 Protection Framework (traffic light system) to remain in place, with some changes from 11:59pm on Friday 25 March 2022:
- indoor gathering limits at Red increase to 200;
- no outdoor gathering limits at Red;
- additional guidance at Orange regarding mask use and gathering size.
From 11:59pm on Friday 25 March 2022 individuals no longer required to QR scan and businesses no longer required to provide QR codes (but again, are able to do so).
This article is intended only to provide a summary of the subject covered. It does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. No person should act in reliance on any statement contained in this publication without first obtaining specific professional advice. If you require any advice or further information on the subject matter of this newsletter, please contact the partner/solicitor in the firm who normally advises you, or alternatively contact one of the partners listed below.