The National Cabinet has introduced new mandates for compulsory COVID-19 vaccinations for residential aged care workers. This includes:
- nursing and personal care staff
- allied health professionals
- kitchen, cleaning, laundry, garden and office staff
Mandatory vaccinations and regular testing requirements will also extend to quarantine workers including those involved in transportation of individuals to quarantine locations.
The decision has come to light after recent outbreaks of the Delta strain sparked a crisis meeting, at which the government confirmed that enforcing mandatory vaccinations is not a decision that was taken lightly. In the meeting the National Cabinet agreed to mandate that at least the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine be administered by mid-September 2021 for all residential aged care workforce.
The broadened scope of government enforced vaccinations within the workplace raises queries as to whether employers now have an obligation to enforce aged care employees to be vaccinated and what they need to do to support those employees who now have a deadline of mid-September 2021 to have their first dose of the vaccine.
The Government has announced that those working exclusively within the residential aged-care industry will be supported through a Vaccination Support grant. Under the grant, residential aged care facilities will be paid for three categories of expenditure:
- A flat fee for casual staff who are required to attend off-site vaccinations,
- Paid leave for casual staff who become unwell after the vaccination,
- Facilitation costs of off-site vaccination for groups of employees.
This also means permanent employees will be entitled to be absent from work to attend off-site vaccinations, and employers should accommodate these requests as much as reasonably possible. Employers can utilise the third category of expenditure, which covers the cost of arranging groups of staff to be vaccinated and/or any other reasonable expenses that incentivise staff to get vaccinated.
One thing employers should keep in mind is that provisions still exist surrounding employees who might have medical exemptions from receiving vaccinations; for example individuals who can demonstrate the COVID-19 vaccine will likely be detrimental to their health. Such exemptions include risks of or known adverse medical reactions or immunocompromising conditions that are supported with clearance from medical authorities such as certain GP’s or clinical immunologists.
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