Update: Lockdown Changes, Vaccinated Economy Trials and Vaccine Mandate

Changes to Regions in Lockdown

There have been changes to the regions currently in lockdown since the evening on Friday 8 October..

Lockdown has lifted in Greater Shepparton and Moorabool Shire as of 11:59pm 8 October.

Mitchell Shire and Mildura Rural City Council remain in lockdown, alongside metropolitan Melbourne.

Vaccinated Economy Trials

The Victorian Government yesterday announced further details about the vaccinated economy trials to commence this month. A press statement is attached.

As part of these trials, a concert will occur at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl on Saturday 30 October. Crowds of up to 10,000 will also be permitted at the Melbourne Cup, and at Oaks Day and Stakes Day as part of the Melbourne Cup Carnival, provided 80% of eligible Victorians are fully vaccinated by that time. Smaller live music events are planned around the state at the same time.

These events remain subject to consideration of the venue’s COVIDSafe Plan and approval from the Chief Health Officer.

From today, the first stage of trials using the settings that will apply when 70% of eligible Victorians are fully vaccinated will commence at 14 venues in regional Victoria.

These trials will test and fine-tune the processes and training that will be required when businesses reopen after the 70% vaccination threshold has been reached. Individuals attending businesses or events that are part of the vaccinated economy trials will be asked to show that they are fully vaccinated with a COVID-19 digital certificate displayed through the Service Victoria app, Medicare app or equivalent smartphone wallet, or with a printed version of their certificate. Individuals will alternatively need to provide evidence of a valid exemption. These processes are expected to be required when businesses reopen under the settings that will apply when the 70% threshold is reached.  

Residents in Victoria can now update their Service Victoria app so that they can ‘link’ their vaccination certificate ahead of re-opening. Based on the current trend of vaccinations it is foreshadowed that Victoria may enter ‘Phase C’ easing of restrictions (70% vaccination of >16) on or around 23 October 2021 – a few days ahead of the original forecast date of 26 October 2021. The exact opening date will be announced closer to the time, however operators should track the vaccination trends so that they are prepared to re-open when they are permitted to do so.

Vaccine Mandate

As was recently announced, employers in a significant number of industries must ensure that workers who have not been vaccinated and are not otherwise exempt from vaccination do not attend work on site after 15 October 2021.

Despite the very poor drafting of the Vaccination Directions, our office takes the view that hospitality and gaming room staff are included within the scope of authorised workers and who are therefore required to be vaccinated.

If, despite the Government mandate and directions from their employer, an employee refuses to get vaccinated the employer’s options to resolve the refusal include:

  1. Considering alternative working arrangements, such as working from home or redeployment to an off-site role.  Such arrangements will be subject to operational requirements of the particular workplace.
  2. Agreeing with the employee on the use of accrued leave.
  3. Disciplinary action, including unpaid suspension and potentially termination of employment.

Of course, the appropriate resolution will vary greatly depending on the workplace, the employee’s role, and any terms of the contract of employment. For example – a work-from-home arrangement may be simpler to implement in an HR or administration role compared to a head chef, or any other ‘hands on’ role. Employers should assess any non-compliance with the vaccine mandate on a case-by-case basis, to mitigate the risks of employee claims of discrimination or unfair dismissal.

Outside of the mandate, many professions and workplaces may also implement their own policies regarding vaccination requirements for staff and patrons. For transparency, we consider that it is certainly beneficial for all workplaces to have a clear policy regarding any vaccination requirements for staff and/or patrons.

Should you have any specific queries regarding the implementation of the vaccine mandate, any disputes with staff, or implementing a vaccination policy please contact our office to discuss.

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.