Update: Changes to Vaccination Requirements for Hospitality Staff

On Sunday 17 October 2021 Premier Daniel Andrews made announcements that changed and updated the Roadmap to easing restrictions, including confirmation that hospitality premises (and other industries) could re-open as and from 22 October 2021.

It has always been a feature of the Roadmap that patrons of some industries would have to demonstrate being fully vaccinated upon re-opening, but on Sunday there were cursory references made to hospitality in particular stating that in order to re-open that both staff and patrons have to be fully vaccinated.

In response to direct questions in conference today, the Premier confirmed that this was his understanding and that this would be reflected in the direction to be published. Mr Andrews indicated it would be illogical for venues to require all patrons to be double vaccinated and then have staff that were not. He further indicated that this had been well sign posted for the industry and if venues wanted to take advantage of the relaxed restrictions they would need to comply with this requirement – noting that with the proposed level of opening he did not envisage venues requiring a full staff complement.

This is in direct contradiction to a number of industry sources – one reporter even cited advice that had been provided to the Australian Hotels Association (Vic), which the Premier stated was not consistent with his advice.

What industries are affected?

Only hospitality has been singled out. However our advice at this time is that any industry that can only re-open on 22 October 2021 for fully vaccinated patrons must also ensure it has fully vaccinated staff.

This includes hospitality, hairdressing, beauty and personal care, tourism, accommodation and community sport.

What about industries that can open for unvaccinated patrons?

Some facilities have different settings that will apply from 22 October 2021 – meaning that they can still operate with unvaccinated patrons, but to a lesser capacity than if they operate with vaccinated patrons.

Examples include weddings and funerals, and outdoor personal training. In Regional Victoria this also includes hospitality – which can currently open with reduced numbers for unvaccinated patrons, but will be able to increase numbers with vaccinated patrons from Friday.

This new announcement means that any hospitality facility that wants to operate with the benefit of additional patron capacity must ensure that all patrons and staff are fully vaccinated.

While it has not been explicitly announced, it is reasonable to assume the same will be true of all other businesses where there are different limits for vaccinated and unvaccinated patrons.

In the case of metropolitan Melbourne hospitality premises, the result of this is that those businesses can only open for takeaway/delivery if their staff are not all fully vaccinated.

Some other industries, such as essential retail (i.e. supermarkets and bottle shops) that have always remained open during the lockdown will be able to continue operating as normal provided that the vaccination status of their staff is in line with the mandate.

How does this work with the mandate?

As many will know the vaccination mandate listed authorised customer-facing workers, and set out a timeline for which staff had to be vaccinated in order to work outside of their home:

Essentially the timeline is as follows:

  1. Staff can work in most industries from 15 October 2021 provided they have one dose or have booked their first dose by 22 October 2021.
  2. Staff can work in most industries if they have one dose by 22 October 2021.
  3. Staff can work in most industries if they are fully vaccinated by 26 November 2021.

For hospitality workers, this now seems illogical – since a staff member might be in compliance with the mandate by having a single dose by 22 October 2021, but under the new announcements they would not be able to work at a hospitality premises open for seated service in metropolitan Melbourne until they are fully vaccinated. Clearly there will be some frustration and confusion in how these different requirements overlap.

It is also worth mentioning that the Premier indicated that the mandate would likely remain in effect in Victoria ‘well and truly into 2022’, and cited the Grand Prix in April 2022 as an indicative event as one that would likely only be able to be attended by persons who are fully vaccinated. Mr Andrews was clear that there would be no end to the vaccinated economy in Victoria at the 90% vaccination rate, as has been announced in New South Wales. Unvaccinated people in Victoria will not able “to wait it out” in Mr Andrews words.

We will continue to publish further updates as the situation develops further.

This update does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. It is intended only to provide a summary and general overview on matters of interest and it is not intended to be comprehensive. You should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content.