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Do you know your staff’s vaccination status?

Close up: Arm being tended after vaccination by gloved hand. Stamp indication person has been vaccinated.

Updated 18 August 2021

Mandatory COVID-19 vaccination is becoming a reality for a growing number of Australian workplaces. This creates a new suite of HR considerations for employers, including record-keeping and the protection of employees' personal information.

Read Mandating COVID-19 vaccinations in the workplace >

From 17 September 2021, COVID-19 vaccination will be mandatory for residential aged care workers. Read more >

State and territory governments have made and may continue to make public health orders requiring workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in their state or territory. This already applies to certain types of high-risk workers in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia. Employers and workers must comply with any public health orders that apply to them.

The Fair Work Ombudsman will continue to monitor for any new public health orders and update their information accordingly. Visit the Fair Work Ombudsman website for current information and guidance on common questions about coronavirus vaccinations and the workplace >

As of 15 June 2021, all residential aged care approved providers are required to report their employees' COVID-19 vaccination status via My Aged Care on a weekly basis. Reporting will also become mandatory for home and community aged care providers. Read the media release by The Hon Greg Hunt MP, Minister for Health and Aged Care >

As most healthcare, aged care and disability workers are already required to receive the flu vaccine, employers will be familiar with the importance of keeping accurate and up-to-date staff vaccination records in accordance with their infection prevention and control programs. It is crucial for employers to consider their privacy policy in relation to vaccination records, including how you will handle any client or patient requests for proof of vaccination.

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) offer the following general advice for employers:

  • Employers will only be able to collect information about employee’s vaccination status in very limited circumstances

  • Only the minimum amount of personal information reasonably necessary to maintain a safe workplace should be collected, used or disclosed

  • You must only collect vaccination status information if the employee consents and the collection is reasonably necessary for your functions and activities, unless an exception applies

  • One exception that may allow collection without the employee’s consent is circumstances where the collection is required or authorised by law

  • If vaccination status information is collected, you must advise employees how this information will be handled

  • Vaccination status information should be used or disclosed on a ‘need-to-know’ basis

  • Ensure you take reasonable steps to keep employee vaccination status and related health information secure

The OAIC also points that privacy is only one of many factors to consider when asking employees their COVID-19 vaccination status, and encourages employers to seek further information from the Fair Work Ombudsman and Safe Work Australia websites.

Read Privacy in the workplace >

There are already some limited circumstances where employers may collect health information without consent, such as where the collection is required or authorised by Australian law. For example, the Queensland COVID-19 Testing and Vaccination Requirements (Contact by Health Workers with Cases) Direction of 31 March 2021 requires ‘relevant employees’ to be vaccinated against COVID-19. ‘Relevant employees’ includes health service employees, ambulance employees and contractors engaged to perform clinical or non-clinical services within hospitals and health services whose work takes them within close proximity to persons who have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Under Part 5 of this Direction, a public health emergency officer can direct a relevant employee to provide evidence of vaccination.

State and territory public health orders are continually being updated to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. With COVID-19 vaccination now being mandatory for the aged care sector, it is important that employers review their workplace vaccination policy.

Read Do you have a workplace vaccination policy? >

Your workplace vaccination policy needs to cover how you will manage record keeping and privacy. It should also include your processes for managing various refusal scenarios and any potential employment pathways, options or outcomes.

For more information or tailored advice, please contact us today.