Information for employees that require vaccination

COVID-19 vaccination has become a mandatory condition of employment for some workforces and situations in the ACT.

In these situations and under public health directions, people will be required to provide evidence of their COVID-19 vaccination status, or of an authorised exemption to vaccination.

Information for employees

Why is the ACT Government requiring vaccination for some employment sectors?

In most cases, the ACT Government has followed the advice of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) and the National Cabinet which have recommended that certain high-risk and critical employment sectors require their staff to be vaccinated, including:

  • aged care
  • health care, and
  • disability care.

The decision to require that certain staff working across early childhood settings, ACT primary schools, out of school hours care and specialist and flexible education settings be vaccinated was made in response to concerns that children and young people, particularly those under 12-years old, have not yet had the chance to be vaccinated and will be returning to face-to-face learning.

In all cases, the ACT Chief Health Officer has or will be issuing Public Health Emergency Directions that are designed to limit the spread of COVID-19 in critical and high-risk employment sectors.

These sectors are targeted because the people that use or work in these sectors are at higher risk of virus transmission and therefore severe illness or death.

Which employment sectors require vaccination in the ACT? When do I need to be vaccinated by?

If you work for one of the impacted employment sectors, the following table identifies when you need to be vaccinated:

Sector

First dose requirement

Second dose requirement

Residential aged care facilities

29 October 2021

1 December 2021

Schools, early childhood education and care facilities

1 November 2021

29 November 2021

Hospitals, hospices, Canberra Health Services and patient transports workers

29 October 2021

1 December 2021

Disability support workers

15 November 2021

13 December 2021

Aged-care workers that provide in-home  support, including workers engaged under the Community Assistance and Support Program (CASP)

15 November 2021

13 December 2021

Where can I read these Public Health Emergency Directions?

Public Health Emergency Directions are made by the Chief Health Officer, using powers made available under the Public Health Act 1997.

You can read the direction that is relevant to your employment sector on the ACT Directions page, these include:

  • Residential aged care workers
  • School, early childhood education and care workers
  • Hospital, hospice, Canberra Health Services and patient transport workers
  • Disability support workers, as well as aged-care workers that provide in-home support.
How do these requirements work and how long will they last?

In most cases, Public Health Emergency Directions made by the ACT Chief Health Officer will remain in effect until they are repealed or the COVID-19 public health emergency that has been declared under the Public Health Act 1997 ends.

The current state of public health emergency is regularly reviewed by the ACT Chief Health Officer in consultation with ACT Government Ministers.

For school, early childhood education and care workers, the Public Health Emergency Direction made by the ACT Chief Health Officer will remain in effect until 31 December 2021 or the COVID-19 public health emergency ends.

This is in recognition that children and young people will soon be able to be vaccinated against COVID-19, pending advice from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI).

Will we lose highly trained, valuable health care workers from the sector on the basis of this mandate?

As the ACT has reached over 99% first dose vaccinations (aged 12+), we don’t anticipate that there will be high numbers of workers in these sector that choose to leave the workforce.

Can I apply for an exemption?

Yes.

There may be occasions or exceptional circumstances whereby an individual is unable to fulfil the requirement to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.

Exemptions may be issued on a temporary or ongoing basis.

All people that think they may qualify for exemption from vaccination must apply for vaccination in accordance with ACT COVID-19 vaccination exemption policy.

Please note exemptions cannot be granted on religious, political or personal grounds.

All temporary and permanent medical exemptions must be authorised by a medical practitioner and be in accordance with established ATAGI clinical guidance and ATAGI Expanded guidance on temporary medical exemptions for COVID-19 vaccine.

The form should be provided by your medical practitioner so you can follow up with your employer.

The ACT COVID-19 vaccine medical contraindication or temporary exemption form is available here.

Please note: this form is not intended to replace the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) immunisation medical exemption form.

More information in the ACT COVID-19 vaccination exemption policy.

What happens if I choose not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine?

If you work in one of the impacted areas and you are not vaccinated and do not have an exemption, you will not be permitted to return to work.

How this is managed depends on your employer, their own internal policies and the options that are available to them.

For example, you might be stood down, placed on leave until you are vaccinated (paid or unpaid depending on your entitlements) or redeployed to another business area.

We encourage all operators that are affected by these Directions to seek independent legal advice if unsure about how to proceed.

How can I prove I am vaccinated?

The Public Health Directions require that all employers check and validate the vaccination or exemption status of their staff.

Most employees have access to a digital or printed COVID-19 vaccine certificate that can be shown to your employer to demonstrate that you are vaccinated.

Your employer is not required to make any copies of this evidence and instead can meet their compliance and reporting obligations by recording your vaccination or exemption status, coupled with the date of expiry – if an exemption has been issued.

This information can then be stored on your personnel record, like any personal / sensitive health information that is held about you.

As a volunteer in one of these sectors, am I required to be vaccinated?

Yes.

You are considered a worker whether you are part-time, full-time or casually employed.

Contractors, sub-contractors and volunteers are also considered to be workers.

Where can I get a COVID-19 vaccine?

Use the vaccine clinic finder to find your nearest COVID-19 vaccine clinic.

You do not require a Medicare card or payment to be vaccinated.

Information for disability support, in-home and community aged care workers

Disability and aged care workers will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 if they deliver services in the ACT that are funded by the:

  • National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)
  • Commonwealth in-home and community age care program, or
  • Territory and state governments.

If you work for or deliver one of these services, you are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by no later than:

  • 15 November 2021 for first vaccination dose, and
  • 13 December 2021 for second vaccination dose.

This requirement will apply to anyone who has in-person contact with clients whether you work on a:

  • paid
  • unpaid (volunteers)
  • part-time
  • full-time, or
  • casual basis.

Contractors that are engaged to work with clients are also included in this Direction.

The Public Health Emergency Direction includes workers who:

  • are self-employed or engaged directly by a client – if your business targets disability or aged care sector clients and your services are paid for using assigned public funds (for example, disability support workers that are employed directly by a client)
  • provide in-home, community or centre-based services
  • provide an administrative or related function that supports services to be delivered, if that role involves contact with clients (for example, providing front-desk support or working in a common client space), and
  • provide targeted transport services (for example, through the ACT community assistance and support program (CASP) program or Transport Canberra flexible bus service).

It does not include workers that have ad hoc engagement with disability or aged care sector clients, like commercial businesses that offer services to the broader community (for example, home maintenance, taxi or Uber transport).

What does this mean for disability support, in-home and community aged care workers?

Workers need to provide their employer with evidence of their vaccination.

You can prove you are vaccinated by showing your employer a copy of your digital or printed COVID-19 vaccination certificate.

Employers need to sight proof of vaccination for your staff and keep a record of the vaccination status of your employees.

Employers are also required to compile a report of the number of staff that are vaccinated and report any non-compliance.

Why do disability support, in-home and community aged care workers need to be vaccinated?

Disability and aged care workers deliver critical services and are at high-risk of COVID-19 transmission due to the close person-to-person nature of the services delivered.

Vaccination is the strongest protection we have against severe illness and death and reduces the risk of onward transmission.

It is important to remember that even if you are fully vaccinated, you can still be infected with COVID-19.

You must always observe all public health and safety measures like wearing a mask, sanitising common spaces and social distancing.

Which disability support, in-home and community aged care workers need to be vaccinated?

Under the Public Health Emergency Direction, any worker that interacts in person with clients must be vaccinated to do their work.

This applies to anyone who works to deliver a service that is funded or provided:

  • under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), whether it is registered or unregistered
  • by in-home and community aged care program, or
  • by the ACT Government where the service being delivered for the primary purpose of providing support to people living with disability is for clients with a disability.
Are support coordinators, managers, administrators, and other office staff required to be vaccinated in this sector?

Any worker that interacts in person with clients must be vaccinated.

Your role title does not matter.

Administrative workers, support coordinators and managers whose role involves interacting with clients are required to be vaccinated.

The Public Health Direction sets a minimum vaccination requirement for businesses.

It does not remove the ability for employers to make further requirements within their organisations, if the organisation decides it is right for them.

A useful site for information on COVID-19 vaccinations: workplace rights and obligations is the Fair Work Ombudsman website.

What are my responsibilities as an employer?

The Public Health Direction creates responsibilities for an employer (defined as an ‘operator’ and their ‘responsible person’ in the Direction) to:

  • sight evidence of each staff members vaccination (or exemption, if applicable), and
  • record the vaccination status of the employee to confirm they have received one or more doses of the COVID-19 vaccine by:
    • 15 November for first dose, and
    • 13 December for second dose.

Every employer that delivers services under the Commonwealth in-home and community aged care program will need to regularly report the vaccination rates of their staff via the My Aged Care provider portal.

Further information and guidance is available on the Australian Government Department of Health website.

Further information for National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) providers about reporting to the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission will be available soon.

Operators that deliver services to the Commonwealth and ACT will only need to report vaccination status routinely to the Commonwealth, as per your existing service agreement.

ACT Government will conduct regular audits of the vaccination status of unregistered NDIS providers and organisations that are engaged directly to deliver disability and aged-care services.

Agencies that are contacted by ACT Government officials are expected to comply with any request within a reasonable timeframe.

Every employer that delivers services under the Commonwealth in-home and community aged care program will need to regularly report the vaccination rates of their staff via the My Aged Care provider portal

Am I required to collect evidence of the vaccination or exemption status of my staff?

The Public Health Directions requires that all employers sight evidence of staff vaccination and document this status for reporting and compliance purposes.

You are not required to make any copies of this evidence and instead can meet compliance and reporting obligations by recording vaccination or exemption status, coupled with the date of expiry if an exemption has been issued.

This information can then be stored on the individual’s personnel record.

As with any personal health records of staff, this information will need to be stored and maintained in accordance with the Health Records (Privacy and Access) Act 1997.

A guide for record keepers has been previously prepared by the Community Services Directorate.

General information and advice about handling health information for staff is also available on the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner website.

What information is needed when I report the collective vaccination status for my disability or aged care team?

You will be required to report de-identified data specifying the number of:

  • staff you employ
  • staff that have received their first dose vaccination
  • staff that are fully vaccinated, and
  • staff that are exempt from vaccination.

If you deliver services under the NDIS or Commonwealth in-home and community aged care scheme, you may need to liaise with these agencies about specific reporting rules.

Refer to the following sites for more information:

Organisations that deliver services to both the NDIS and Commonwealth in-home and community aged care program will need to report using both mechanisms but will typically not be asked to report to the Territory.

The information you provide to the NDIS Commission and the Australian Government Department of Health will be made available by the Commonwealth to the Territory upon request (for compliance and auditing purposes).

I work for an unregistered NDIS provider. Do I need to be vaccinated?

Yes.

The Public Health Direction covers all services that are funded by the NDIS.

This wording has been used intentionally to ensure that clients accessing registered and unregistered services using (their NDIS funding) are given the same level of protection from COVID-19.

I don’t have contact with clients. Do I need to be vaccinated?

You need to be vaccinated if you work with or have in-person contact with any clients when performing your duties.

This includes:

  • administrative staff who work in an office that is shared with a common client space, like a front-desk, waiting area, community, or group program
  • disability or aged care transport staff who deliver sector specific transport programs, like the Transport Canberra Flexible Bus Service (provided by ACT Government), or a transport provider delivering services under the ACT community assistance and support program (CASP)
  • domiciliary care workers that are funded by the Commonwealth (NDIS or in-home and community aged care program), or a territory or state government, if you are funded to deliver services to people living with disability or as part of the aged care sector.

The above list is not an exhaustive list.

It should act as a guide to workers and their employers when they need to be vaccinated.

The only exception to the above are workers that have ad hoc engagement with disability or aged care sector clients, like commercial home maintenance or mowing companies that happen to have a client that receive services from these sectors.

Does this apply to workers that are employed by a NSW company to deliver services in the ACT?

Yes.

Workers and employers that deliver applicable services in the ACT must comply with the Public Health Emergency Direction.

The ACT Direction aligns to a NSW Public Health Order that is already in place.

Being employed by a business that is in the surrounding region (or elsewhere) is not a permissible reason for failing to comply when you are working in the ACT.

How do I apply for an exemption if I’m a disability support, in-home and community aged care worker?

There may be occasions or exceptional circumstances whereby an individual is unable to fulfil the requirement to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.

In these cases, an exemption from vaccination may be issued on a temporary or ongoing basis.

Exemptions will only be considered for:

  • a person who is unable, due to a medical contraindication, to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, or
  • a person for whom a COVID-19 vaccination is not reasonably available.

Please note exemptions cannot be granted on religious, political or personal grounds.

If you think you may qualify for an exemption from vaccination in accordance with the ACT COVID-19 vaccination exemption policy, you must apply for an exemption.

To apply for an exemption:

An outcome of your exemption from vaccination request will be provided to you following review of your application.

Can a client request proof of information from you directly?

Yes.

Clients have the right to ask for information and make informed decisions about the people that are entering their home.

Answering this question requires a disclosure of your personal health information and whether you disclose this information is up to you.

Please be aware that a client is within their rights to refuse entry to their home if you are unvaccinated, or do not want to disclose your vaccination status.

Clients (their carers or families) can also make a report to the Office of the Chief Health Officer (ACTHealthOCHO@act.gov.au), NDIS or Aged Care Commissions if they believe that a worker is not vaccinated, or not complying with the Public Health Direction.

If this happens, the Public Health Act 1997 gives the Chief Health Officer (or their delegate) powers to investigate these reports.

Information for people with disability

I’m a person with disability. Can my provider give me information about the vaccination status of specific staff members?

No.

The COVID-19 vaccination status of a worker is personal health information and must be protected by an employer.

That means it can only be shared with the consent of the worker, or under legislation.

Can I ask for the vaccination status of workers that come to my home or provide me with support?

Yes.

Workers can disclose their own personal health information and you are able to ask workers for this information before engaging them in service delivery.

If a worker refuses to provide this information, you can choose not to receive their service.

If you become concerned that they are not vaccinated or abiding by the terms of the Public Health Direction, you can report this information to the:

Further resources for disability support, in-home and community aged care workers

The Commonwealth has provided a range of guidelines that are designed to help workers and their employers understand COVID-19 vaccination rights and obligations.

Please refer to the links below for more information:

Information for employers

As an employer, how do I demonstrate that my staff are vaccinated?

As an employer, you need to sight proof of vaccination for your staff on or before the date specified in the relevant Public Health Direction and keep a record of the vaccination or exemption status of your employees.

You are also required to compile a report of the number of staff that are vaccinated and/or exempt and report non-compliance of staff to a relevant oversight body.

A reporting framework is under development and will be shared soon.

Who do I report to?

This depends on the sector that you work in and ACT Health will make this information available to each sector. On occasion, ACT Health may contact you to conduct compliance checking. Where this occurs, you will need to provide:

  • the total number of staff in your organisation
  • the number of staff who have received first and second doses of a COVID-19 vaccine
  • the number of staff exempted from vaccination
  • the number of staff where COVID-19 vaccination status is unknown to the organisation, and
  • the reasons for non-compliance with a Public Health Direction, if applicable.
Will this reporting requirement add additional administrative burden to our organisation?

All organisations keep records of staff members.

This additional piece of information (vaccination status) represents a small administrative impost on organisations for the purpose of keeping vulnerable populations from being exposed to unvaccinated workers within health care facilities.

How will my employees data be kept confidential by ACT Health?

Compliance data requested by ACT Health (or in some cases, the Commonwealth) will be anonymised count data for each organisation, for example, total number of staff that have received first and/or second doses of a COVID-19 vaccination.

The information collected by ACT Health will therefore not be identifiable at the level of individual staff members. Total numbers of staff vaccinations across a sector may be publicly released.

If data provided on vaccination status is anonymous, how will ACT Health identify unvaccinated staff?

It will be the responsibility of each organisation to identify and record vaccination status of individual staff members.

Are there penalties for not complying with a Public Health Direction?

If ACT Government become aware that your organisation is not compliant with a Public Health Emergency Direction, you will be required to provide reasons for non-compliance and a penalty may be imposed. As at 22 October, the maximum fine that can be issued for non-compliance is $8,000 for an individual and $40,500 for an organisation.

If you are concerned about compliance and would like to talk with someone about whether you meet the requirements of a public health direction, you can contact us at ACTHealthOCHO@act.gov.au.

Related links

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Acknowledgement of Country

We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the ACT, the Ngunnawal people. We acknowledge and respect their continuing culture and the contribution they make to the life of this city and this region.

Last Updated: November 29 2021