LEGAL UPDATE – Mandate restrictions easing in Queensland

IN BRIEF

The Public Health (Further Extension of Declared Public Health Emergency—COVID-19) Regulation (No. 2) 2022 was implemented only last week. However, the Premier has turned around on that announcement and has announced some of Queensland’s last remaining COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted from 1am, 30 June 2022.

Summary

Beginning this Thursday, Queenslanders will no longer require COVID vaccinations to visit aged care facilities, disability accommodation and correctional facilities.

The Premier has also announced that the high-risk worker vaccine mandate would also be revoked in schools, early childhood education, outside school care, kindergartens, family day care, police watch houses, youth detention centers and airports.

Despite these easing restrictions, mandatory vaccines are still required for workers in healthcare, hospitals, aged care and disability care.

What does this mean for you?

The Premier stated that the decision around mandatory vaccinations in businesses falling within the scope of those not subject to the mandatory vaccines, will be made by the employer. This means that it is their choice as to whether they have a direction in place for employees.

This stance seems to follow the recent Fair Work Commission decision of Ms Emma Jamieson v Monash Health [2022] FWC 1331 (Jamieson), where Commissioner Johns emphasized that mandatory vaccinations in a workplace are a matter of choice for employees, rather than a mandate imposed by employers.

It was held in Jamieson that Monash Health had implemented a direction that was not a mandate and “[Her] decision not to get vaccinated meant that Monash Health, bound by the terms of the Directions, was required to ensure that [she] did not attend the workplace.” She was then subsequently dismissed for being unable to fulfill the inherent requirements of her job.

Where employers made decisions to terminate employment of employees based on non-compliance with the orders, those decisions remain valid. Some former employees may seek to be returned to the workplace now that the public health orders have ceased to operate in some industries. It is for employers to decide how to engage/re-engage those employees.

For those employees who have been stood down because their vaccination status was not in line with the public health orders, now is the time to re-engage with them to discuss their return to the workplace.

Where the health orders will no longer operate in some industries, employers should consider whether reasonable directions might be made around vaccinations as part of your WHS / risk management system.

This is commentary published by Colin Biggers & Paisley for general information purposes only. This should not be relied on as specific advice. You should seek your own legal and other advice for any question, or for any specific situation or proposal, before making any final decision. The content also is subject to change. A person listed may not be admitted as a lawyer in all States and Territories. © Colin Biggers & Paisley, Australia 2021.

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