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Business Insights – 30th September – Mandatory Vaccination Direction Explained

I’m here with insights for Australian businesses on 30th September 2021.

The team of business coaches at Tenfold are getting lots of questions about how the mandatory vaccination directions in Victoria will work once construction sites reopen. I want to ensure small business operators are informed about this important matter. The Victorian mandatory vaccination direction prohibit unvaccinated workers from attended certain workplaces. Note that these new directions do not apply to all tradespeople, they only apply to construction sites.

Here are the key pieces of information included in this briefing:

  • Who the Victorian mandatory vaccination direction applies to
  • Can employers tell staff to get vaccinated
  • What business operators need to do (seek vax status, record details)
  • How to have a conversation with your team about these directions

If you have any questions about any of the information included here, please reach out to your Tenfold coach. We are here to help you navigate the current conditions to get the best outcome for your business, your team and your clients.

 

Who the Victorian mandatory vaccination direction applies to

The directions DO apply to:

  • Construction sites, residential aged care facilities, health care facilities and education facilities;
  • People who go onto construction sites, this includes employees and subbies.

The directions DON’T apply to:

  • Maintenance or emergency work on completed, operating sites;
  • Office staff working in the construction sector businesses that don’t ever attend the construction sites

Here are the specific definitions in the mandatory vaccination directions:

Construction sites:

  • means a premises at which civil works, building or construction activities are taking place (the primary premises).
  • It includes a site office and any vehicle used to carry out work on site (such as an excavator or truck)

Construction site worker:

  • is any person performing work at a construction site, including:

(a) an employee of the operator; and

(b) any contractor engaged by the operator or by a third-party.

The Victorian directions for mandatory vaccinations also apply to residential aged care facilities, health care facilities and education facilities, and all workers who attend those facilities.

In Victoria it’s currently only these sites and facilities with mandatory vaccination directions. However, the Tenfold business coach team have been monitoring these announcements and we expect at some time in the future that the regulations may be extended to other workplaces. We have seen that some organisations, such as University of Melbourne, are proactively taking a position that anyone visiting their premises must be fully vaccinated.

If you have team members on the road visiting different locations, expect that in the future unvaccinated workers will be unable to enter some offices, factories and warehouses.

 

Can employers tell staff to get vaccinated

You can’t tell an employee to get vaccinated. However, if their job is one that is subject to a vaccination directive, you can explain that it’s a requirement of their role that they are vaccinated or are to be booked in for a vaccination within the timeframe set by the government. For construction site workers, they need to provide evidence that they are booked in for the first dose by 2nd October 2021.

I know from speaking with Tenfold clients that some of your team members feel strongly about the vaccinations, and with a range of reasons. This topic can be polarising, with strong opinions from both sides of the issue, so it’s important as an employer that you remain impartial.

 

What to do if your employee chooses not to get vaccinated

If your employee decides not to get vaccinated and their role requires them to work on a site that is subject to a mandatory vaccination direction, you could start a formal disciplinary process as they are not following a reasonable and lawful direction, but a better option would be to require them to take unpaid leave for an indefinite period.

In this situation, your employee is not considered to be stood down as that relates only to work stoppages that are out of your control, such as government enforced shut downs.

 

What Tenfold clients need to do to comply with Victoria’s mandatory vaccination direction

As an employer, you will need to collect the vaccination status for employees who will be working on a site that is subject to a mandatory vaccination direction.

If you are the principal operator of the site or facility, you’ll be responsible for collecting the vaccination status for everyone who attends the site whether they are your employee or a subcontractor.

For further advice, see here: https://www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au/coronavirus-sector-guidance-construction#requesting-vaccination-information-from-workers

 

How to have a conversation with your team about these directions

As I mentioned, some people have strong feelings about vaccinations. This is an issue that requires careful handling because it is likely to be a sensitive issue for the employee and also for you as the employer at this time of labour shortages.

As the employer, your team will be looking to you to provide assurance and clarity. Here are some points to consider:

  • Explain that this is a government directive under a public health order;
  • Try to remain objective and stay focused on the facts of the directive;
  • If your team members express their concerns, acknowledge them so that they feel heard and respected. You don’t have to provide solutions or answers on the spot, you can take time to consider a response. Avoid setting yourself up as the ‘bad guy’, you’re simply performing a role required of you by the law. Your Tenfold coach can help you with these interactions.

Below is some sample text you can use in an email to start the discussion with your team:

“In order to continue operating I’m asking you to provide information about your expected vaccination status on . This will allow me to plan the ongoing operations of the business with confidence. If you haven’t already I would strongly encourage you to speak to your GP about the risks and benefits of vaccination options and the risks of COVID-19. We know that when restrictions ease, we will be more exposed to the virus in the workplace. I not only have a legal duty to provide a safe workplace, but I also care about your own health.”

 

Other updates

An official announcement is expected tomorrow regarding the reopening of Victorian construction sites on 4th October. The same capacity limits that existed before the shutdown are expected to be in place. Stay tuned for other details.

For Tenfold business coaching clients who are recipients of the Victorian Business Costs Assistance Program, we can advise that funding is confirmed to continue until the end of October.

We also believe that the Victorian Hardship Fund may be reopened for more businesses to apply. For those that didn’t apply first time or were ineligible, we’ll let you know when we have confirmation and the eligibility requirements.

 

Again, I encourage you to speak with your Tenfold business coach to ensure you are informed and confident about how to manage these requirements.

Ash

Ashley Thomson B.Eng. (Hons), Grad. Dip. Mgmt, MEI
Managing Director
Tenfold Business Coaching

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