COVID-19 – It Ain’t Over, But It’s Over by 11 August 2023!
I’m sure everyone recalls the mandatory vaccination requirements in place in Victoria during the COVID-19 pandemic and the administrative nightmare they created – really, how could we ever forget?
In mid-2022, vaccination requirements under pandemic orders were removed, and the Occupational Health and Safety Amendment (COVID-19 Vaccination Information) Regulations were enacted. These regulations meant businesses could continue to collect, record, hold and use COVID-19 vaccination information from employees, independent contractors and their employees, volunteers and students on placement permitted to attend the workplace (specified persons), as had been permitted by the pandemic orders.
The Occupational Health and Safety Amendment (COVID-19 Vaccination Information) Regulations was revoked on 12 July 2023, thus bringing an end to the requirement and authority to collect and store COVID-19 vaccination information that was gathered for the purpose of responding to the public health emergency. Enter a new administrative nightmare!
The revocation of the regulations means that Employers are required to destroy COVID-19 vaccination information recorded or held under the regulations within 30 days of the revocation date. Start cleaning out your files, you have until 11 August 2023!
What has to be destroyed?
You need to destroy any COVID-19 vaccination records or references you have that relate to specified persons:
- Receiving any dose of a COVID-19 vaccination
- Vaccination dates
- The number of vaccine doses
- The inability to receive a COVID-19 vaccination for medical contraindication or an acute medical illness.
If the documents were collected for the purposes of complying with pandemic orders or OH&S regulations, the list of things you need to destroy includes but is not limited to hard and electronic versions of:
- Immunisation Register statements
- Doctor’s letters or medical certificates relating to a person’s vaccination status
- Services Australia Certificates, Medical Certificates or other documentation relating to COVID-19 vaccine contra-indication
- Photographs of vaccine record cards
- Statutory Declarations relating to COVID-19 vaccinations
- Registers, spreadsheets, lists or documents used to monitor or record the collection of vaccination information
- Records relating to incentives given to staff specifically for being vaccinated
- Emails and Text Messages containing vaccination information
- Electronic backups of files containing vaccination information also need to be cleared to destroy these records.
What else does this mean in the workplace?
Also no longer permitted are vaccination requirement clauses in employment contracts, position descriptions and job ads. Workplace COVID-19 policies and procedures based on pandemic orders are obsolete.
A worker’s COVID-19 vaccination status is still protected by other legislation.
But it’s not over…
Victoria continues to experience COVID-19 within the community, which still poses a risk of spreading through your workforce. To help manage this moving forward, now that you cannot rely on COVID-19 policies and procedures, HR Gurus have developed a Contagious Illness and Fitness for Work Policy to provide clarity and guidance around managing contagious illnesses and other forms of workplace incapacity.
Of course, some sectors and businesses (health care etc.) have a legitimate need to continue to collect, record, hold and use COVID-19 vaccination information and can still include vaccination requirements in employment contracts, position descriptions and job ads.
The destruction of information requirement does not apply to employers that are permitted or required under other laws to collect, use, record, or hold vaccination information.
As in the pre-COVID-19 world, information must be collected with consent and/or in accordance with relevant health records legislation.
For assistance in updating your templates, policies and procedures to ensure you are protecting your business and meeting your post-COVID-19 obligations, reach out to the HR Gurus team.
Written by Louise Betts