COVID-19 for Workplaces Pack
For the Worker in the Aged care industry

Total supporting material in this pack: 2

Date of print/download 8 May 2021

General information

Your employer must implement control measures to eliminate or minimise the spread of COVID-19 and ensure the health and safety of you, your colleagues, residents and others at your workplace. This is a requirement under Work Health and Safety laws.   

The Australian Government Department of Health has published a range of specific resources on COVID-19 for aged care providers and workers, including those providing in-home care.  

Further information is available from: 

Vaccination

Which vaccine will residential aged care workers receive?

Residential aged care workers will receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in Phase 1a of the National Rollout Strategy.

For more information about the COVID-19 vaccines, see the Department of Health website.

When will residential aged care workers get the vaccine?

Aged care workers are a priority population in Phase 1a of the National Rollout Strategy

Phase 1a vaccinations are expected to begin in February 2021.

How will the vaccine be rolled out to residential aged care workers?

Steps for providing vaccines to residential aged care workers are provided in the National Rollout Strategy.

For more information and updates on how the COVID-19 vaccines will be distributed go to the Department of Health website

Your employer has a duty under the model Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws to eliminate, or if that is not reasonably practicable, minimise the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace. A safe and effective vaccine is only one part of keeping the Australian community safe and healthy. To minimise the risks of COVID-19, workplaces must continue to apply all reasonably practicable COVID-19 control measures including physical distancing, good hygiene and regular cleaning and maintenance, and comply with any public health orders that apply.

This page provides information on your rights and obligations under the model WHS laws in relation to the COVID-19 vaccines. If you need information on your rights and obligations under workplace relations laws, such as your leave entitlements, go to the Fair Work Ombudsman website.  

The Australian Government is committed to providing all Australians with access to free, safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines. While the Government aims to have as many Australians as possible choose to be vaccinated, receiving a vaccination is voluntary. You should get a COVID-19 vaccine if you can.

The national rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines

The Australian Government’s COVID-19 Vaccines National Rollout Strategy identifies priority groups for vaccination, including critical and high-risk workers. The rollout will start with older Australians and certain industries.

The Australian Government is working together with state and territory governments to implement the arrangements under the Australian Vaccination Strategy and the Rollout Strategy. For further information and to find out when you are able to get a COVID-19 vaccine, go to the Department of Health website

State and territory health agencies may make public health orders that require some workers to be vaccinated. If public health orders are made, you must follow them - stay up to date with the advice of your health agency.

Queensland has issued a public health direction for health workers working with diagnosed cases of COVID-19. For a link to Queensland’s public health directions go to our public health orders page. 

There are currently no laws or public health orders in other states or territories that specifically enable employers to require their employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.  

How the COVID-19 vaccines work

The COVID-19 vaccines will help protect people by either preventing or reducing symptoms of COVID-19 in the person who has received the vaccine. 

At this stage it is too early to tell if the COVID-19 vaccines will stop a vaccinated person from being infected with the virus. This means that a vaccinated person may unknowingly carry and spread the virus to others around them, including workers and others in their workplace. Because of this, your employer must continue to apply all reasonably practicable control measures.

For more information on how the COVID-19 vaccines work, go to the Department of Health website.

Can I be forced to get a vaccine?

You cannot be forced to get a vaccination or undergo any medical procedure against your will. For most workers, your employer will not be able to require you to be vaccinated under work health and safety laws.

However, some employers may lawfully require workers to have had a vaccine to perform work or to undertake certain tasks in a workplace, including where there is a public health order which requires vaccination.

If you are a worker who cannot be vaccinated, and you work at a workplace that requires vaccination, you should talk to your employer, health and safety representative (HSR) or worker representative about your options. For information about your workplace rights you can also talk to the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Can my employer require me to be vaccinated against COVID-19 under WHS laws?

All Australians are being encouraged to choose to be vaccinated. The vaccine helps your body to recognise and fight the virus that causes COVID-19 and protects you from getting sick with COVID-19. When enough people in the community get immunised, it is also more difficult for the virus to spread.  

The model work health and safety laws require your employer to do all that they reasonably can (that is, what is reasonably practicable) to protect workers from the risk of exposure to COVID-19. For most workers, it will not be reasonably practicable for your employer to require you to be vaccinated. 

However, there may be some exceptions, particularly if you work in industries where there is an increased risk of exposure to COVID-19. There may also be specific public health orders in your state or territory that require you to be vaccinated. More information is available on the public health orders page

Queensland has issued a public health direction for health workers working with diagnosed cases of COVID-19. For a link to Queensland’s public health directions go to our public health orders page. 

If your employer does require you to be vaccinated, they should provide you with relevant information and materials so that you can make an informed decision about vaccination and you should talk to your treating medical practitioner if you have any concerns. 

More information on the vaccines is available from the Department of Health website. You can also contact your WHS regulator, health and safety representative (HSR) or worker organisation for assistance.

What about my duty as a worker under WHS laws? Does this mean I have to be vaccinated?

As a worker, you must take reasonable care of yourself and not do anything that would adversely affect the health and safety of others at work. You must also follow any reasonable health and safety instructions from your employer as far as you are reasonably able.

If there is a law or public health order in place which requires you to be vaccinated, for example because you work in a certain industry, you may need to be vaccinated to work, or continue to work, in that industry.

Remember, the Australian Government is encouraging everyone who can to get a COVID-19 vaccine. You should talk to your treating medical practitioner if you have any concerns.  

For more information on the COVID-19 vaccines, go to the Department of Health website.

Can I be dismissed from my job or penalised if I decide not to be vaccinated?

The Fair Work Ombudsman provides information and advice to employers and employees on workplace entitlements and obligations under Australian workplace laws. For more information go to the Fair Work Ombudsman website

Does my employer have to talk to me before requiring vaccinations at my workplace?

Yes.

If your employer is considering introducing a mandatory vaccination policy in your workplace, they must consult with you and your health and safety representative (HSR), if any, before taking any action. Your employer must give you an opportunity to share your ideas and express any concerns and take them into account. You should let them know if there is a reason why you cannot be vaccinated. 

Consultation must occur using the established consultation procedures at your workplace, if you have any. Otherwise, consultation may occur broadly, for example, through staff messaging or more directly, through small group discussions, depending on the size and nature of your organisation.

More information is available on the consultation page.

What do I do if I have concerns about the COVID-19 vaccines?

The Australian Government is committed to ensuring Australians have access to safe and effective vaccines. Any COVID-19 vaccine can only be used in Australia if the Therapeutic Goods Administration has approved it through its rigorous approvals process. More information on the approvals process is available on the Department of Health website.

If you still have concerns about receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, you should talk to your treating medical practitioner. 

I’m pregnant – can I be vaccinated?

Advice for those pregnant or breast feeding is available on the Department of Health website.

I will not be able to be vaccinated because of a medical condition. What do I do?

A safe and effective COVID-19 vaccination is only one part of keeping the Australian community safe. Your employer must continue to implement all reasonably practicable control measures in your workplace, such as such as physical distancing, good hygiene and increased cleaning and maintenance. 

Your employer must also consider whether because of your circumstances, particular working arrangements need to be put in place for you. Your employer should take into account your specific characteristics, the nature of your workplace and the type of work you do. More information can be found on the vulnerable workers page.  
 

I am vaccinated. Do I still have to take other precautions such as physical distancing and frequently washing my hands?

Yes. A safe and effective vaccine is only be one part of keeping the Australian community safe and healthy. It is important that you continue to take the following steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19:

  • follow the public health orders in your state or territory
  • don’t attend work when you are unwell, have COVID-19 symptoms or have been told to stay at home by health officials (e.g. you are required to quarantine or have been tested for COVID-19)
  • do all you reasonably can to work safely, including observing controls your employer has put in place for COVID-19 such as physical distancing and cleaning processes and procedures)
  • follow training and instructions your employer has provided to you (e.g. about how to wash hands thoroughly) 
  • ask if you’re not sure how to safely perform the work 
  • use personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves in the way you were trained and instructed to use it, and 
  • report any unsafe situations (e.g. a lack of soap in the bathroom) to your supervisor or to your health and safety representative (HSR).

Your employer is required to make sure everyone in your workplace keeps practicing COVID-19 control measures even after the vaccine rollout begins.

Can my employer ask me for proof that I am vaccinated? 

The Fair Work Ombudsman provides information and advice to employers and employees on workplace entitlements and obligations under Australian workplace laws. For more information go to the Fair Work Ombudsman website

More information about workplace privacy is available on the Fair Work Ombudsman website or on the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner’s website.

Am I entitled to workers’ compensation if I get COVID-19? 

Under workers’ compensation laws you may be entitled to workers’ compensation if you contract COVID-19 while at work, regardless of how you contracted it. Workers’ compensation laws differ in each state and territory, so contact your workers’ compensation authority if you need advice. Contact details and more information on workers’ compensation is available on the workers’ compensation page.