COVID-19 Retailer Resource Hub

Vaccination news & advice for retailers

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Vaccination news

NATIONAL NEWS

EASING OF RESTRICTIONS FOR CLOSE CONTACTS IN EXTENDED INDUSTRIES

Under the relaxed rules, some workers who are a close contact of a positive COVID case do not have to isolate if they return a negative rapid antigen test result.

National Cabinet has agreed to apply these arrangements to all transport, freight and logisitics workers and emergency services personnel. Not just those directly involved in food distribution, but all in the transport, freight and logistics sector. That will include those who work at service stations to ensure that they can continue to be staffed and people can get access to those services.

It will also cover people working in the welfare and support, emergency services, including law enforcement, correctional services, energy, resources, water and waste management sectors, food, beverage and other critical good supplies — that's the food distribution system and production system, not hospitality — telecommunication, data, broadcasting and media. It will also extend to education and childcare.

NATIONAL CABINET UNVEILS NEW APPROACH TO TEST, TRACE, ISOLATE & QUARANTINE

National Cabinet has agreed to the Australian Health Protection Principals Committee (AHPPC) advice to reset TTIQ in the context of high case numbers and the Omicron variant, so that Australians can continue to live with COVID-19. 

The revised approach is complementary to the importance of vaccinations including boosters and existing public health and social measures.

Specifically, National Cabinet agreed to revised definitions for who is close contact, how they are isolated and testing arrangements. 

CLOSE CONTACTS

National Cabinet agreed that close contacts will be defined as household or household-like contacts of a confirmed case. Close contacts will be defined, except in exceptional circumstances, as those who usually live with or who have stayed in the same household for more than 4 hours as a case during their infectious period. 

TESTING & ISOLATION REQUIREMENTS FOR CLOSE CONTACTS & COVID CASES

National Cabinet agreed that:

  • The isolation period for COVID-19 cases will be standardised regardless of vaccination status to a length of 7 days from the date of their positive test. 
  • Household contacts or household-like contacts, except in exceptional circumstances, must quarantine for 7 days after last exposure to a case regardless of vaccination status and then, subject to a negative Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) on day 6, monitor for symptoms for a further 7 days and repeat testing if symptoms occur.  
  • Other contacts who have been potentially exposed to a case but who are at lower risk of infection must monitor for symptoms and only need to have a RAT or PCR test if symptoms occur.
  • All contacts should wear a mask when outside the home, monitor symptoms and avoid visiting high-risk settings for 14 days following exposure to reduce their risk of transmission to others.
  • If RATs are positive, these should be followed by a PCR test to confirm the diagnosis, allow notification and link individuals into social and medical support. PCR tests are the preferred test for symptomatic individuals.

NEW SOUTH WALES NEWS

ISOLATION EXEMPTION FOR WORKERS CRITICAL TO FOOD SUPPLY

Critical workers in the food logistics and manufacturing sectors furloughed as close contacts will be permitted to leave self-isolation to attend work if they have no symptoms of COVID-19, to ensure the state has continued access to essential goods.

Workers will only be eligible to leave self-isolation if their employer determines that their absence from the workplace poses a high risk of disruption to the delivery of critical
services or activities, and they are unable to work from home.

These workers must wear a mask and comply with risk-management strategies put in place by their employer, including daily Rapid Antigen Tests.

  • agriculture (biosecurity and food safety personnel undertaking critical duties)
  • manufacturing (production and manufacturing of food, beverages, groceries, cleaning and sanitary products)
  • transport, postal and warehousing (food logistics, delivery and grocery fulfilment)

The exemption from the isolation rules for close contacts also applies to emergency services workers who are necessary for the delivery of critical services and who cannot
work from home.

For more information refer to Guidance on the exemption of critical workers from the Public Health (COVID-19 Self-Isolation) Order (No 4) 2021.

Public Health (COVID-19 General) Order 2021

This Order, as currently drafted, requires non-critical retail premises to take reasonable steps to ensure that an unvaccinated adult is not on the premises.

We note the following key points:

  • an ‘unvaccinated adult’ is a person more than 16 years of age who is not a fully vaccinated person;
  • the term ‘unvaccinated adult’ encompasses both workers and customers; and
  • a ‘fully vaccinated person’  is a person who has had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine or a person who has a medical contraindication certificate. However, we note that the NSW government has announced that vaccination requirements will be changed to a single dose requirement for regional areas.

The operator of a premises subject to this Order will need to take reasonable steps to ascertain the vaccination status of customers. The NSW Government has prepared guidance on the types of evidence that may be accepted which can be found HERE.

Operators should be aware that where a customer attends the premises for the purpose of purchasing food or beverages to be consumed off the premises or to use a click and collect service they will not be required to provide proof of vaccination.

We note that the above requirements may be subject to change as the NSW Government continues to consult with the community.

UPDATED VACCINATION INFORMATION FOR INDUSTRY & BUSINESSES

Industry and businesses are responsible for keeping their premises safe and minimise the risk of infection and transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace. Businesses will need to:

  • Take reasonable steps to prevent unvaccinated people entering your premises. For example, having prominent signs stating requirements, Service NSW QR codes, staff checking vaccination status upon entry and only accepting valid forms of evidence of vaccination, or medical exemption.
  • If a staff member tests positive, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, 14 days self-isolation is required and NSW Health will follow up. Businesses will refer to their COVID-19 Safety Plan and risk assessment approach for further instructions on notifying other staff.

To support and guide businesses and industry in becoming COVID Safe and operational, the following ‘need to know’ resources are available below. 

COVID-19 cases in the workplace

If you run a business, you must notify SafeWork if a worker has contracted COVID-19 at work, or was likely infectious in the workplace.

VICTORIA NEWS

KEY CRITICAL WORKERS EXEMPT FROM CLOSE CONTACT ISOLATION

From 11:59pm, Tuesday 18 January, workers in emergency services, education, critical utilities, custodial facilities, transport and freight will join workers in the food production sector as being eligible for the exemption from close contact home isolation requirements to attend their workplace.

Under the conditions of the exemption, the worker may return to work if it is necessary for continuity of operations and if other options have been exhausted. The exemption will apply to attending work only, not any other settings.

In order to be eligible, the worker must first notify the employer of their status as a contact, and critically, both parties must consent to the worker returning to the workplace. They are already required to be fully vaccinated.

Strong measures will be required to reduce the risk of a contact attending work while infectious:

  • The worker must undertake a daily Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) for five days and return a negative result prior to attending work each day
  • They must wear a face mask at all times, with exceptions in the case of eating or drinking, or safety reasons, and a P2/N95 respirator is preferred
  • The worker cannot enter shared break areas and the employer must try and facilitate solo break time. The employer must also take reasonable steps to deploy the worker in areas where transmission risk is lower
  • If at any time the worker develops symptoms or tests positive on a RAT, the exemption no longer applies – they are a case, must isolate for 7 days, and must notify others including their employer.

The exemption order is identical to that granted by Victoria’s public health team for key food and beverage workers, and is designed to protect the state’s essential workforce during the continuing Omicron wave.

To ensure Victorians can continue to access essential food supplies, workers in the manufacturing, distribution or packaging of food and beverages including retail supermarket workers may be exempted from close contact isolation requirements in order to attend work from 11.59pm Wednesday 12 January, if it is necessary for continuity of operations and other options have been exhausted.

This exemption also currently applies to hospital workers, disability workers, residential aged care facility workers, and ambulance workers, but the use of an N95 mask at the workplace is a requirement, not a preference.

Close contacts, otherwise known as household and household-like contacts, are people who have spent more than four hours with a case inside a house, accommodation or care facility.

BOOSTER MANDATE FOR WORKERS IN SOME SETTINGS

The Victorian government has announced a requirement for workers in health care, aged care, disability, emergency services, correctional facility, quarantine accommodation and food distribution will be required to get a third dose before being able to return to work onsite.

These workers must already show proof of being double vaccinated and were among the first workers to get their first and second shots last year.

The orders come into effect at 11:59pm on Wednesday, 12 January 2022, and workers who are eligible for the booster from that date will have until February 12 to get the third dose.

Workers not yet eligible to get the third dose will have three months.

Retail supermarket staff are not included in the mandate. Nor will it apply to workers who have a valid medical exemption.

TESTING AND WORKPLACE CONTACT MANAGEMENT

  • Victorians who test positive to COVID-19 (RAT or PCR test) must isolate for seven days from the date of their test. 
  • If a worker who has tested positive for COVID-19 has worked in an indoor space during their infectious period, they must inform their workplace as soon as possible. 
  • The workplace must identify and inform other workers who are contacts (including sub-contractors, but not customers). 
  • It will be mandatory for individuals to report the result of a positive RAT to the Department of Health through an online form or by phone. 
  • The operator of a work premises must then notify the Department of Health and Worksafe and the workplace's Health and Safety Rep. 
  • They must provide acceptable evidence of a negative result from any COVID-19 test before returning to the work premises. 

VACCINATION MANDATES FOR PRESCRIBED WORKERS

From 15 October 2021, in order to work onsite at a work premises, prescribed workers, including retail workers, must be able to provide evidence to their employer that they have:

  • received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, or
  • have a booking to receive their first dose by 22 October 2021, or
  • have a medical exemption evidenced by an authorised medical practitioner.

Employers must:

  • as soon as reasonably practicable, inform existing employees of the requirement under the health order to collect, record and hold the vaccination information of workers
  • as soon as reasonably practicable, collect, record and hold vaccination information about workers.

From 26 November 2021, they will also be required to provide evidence to their employer that they have received their second dose (unless they have a medical exemption) to attend work.

Victorian Acting Chief Health Officer, Benjamin Cowie, has given the COVID-19 Mandatory Vaccination (Workers) Directions that commenced at 11:59pm on 7 October 2021 and end at 11:59pm on 21 October 2021. View the full document below. 

FULLY VACCINATED INTERNATIONAL TRAVELLERS CAN ENTER VIC WITHOUT QUARANTINE FROM 1 NOV

The Victorian Chief Health Officer has removed quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated international arrivals from 1 November 2021.

Fully vaccinated international travellers will be able to enter Victoria without spending 14 days in hotel quarantine as part of the Victorian Government’s Roadmap to Deliver the National Plan.

There will no longer be a cap on fully vaccinated returning Australians wishing to enter Victoria, but international arrivals will need to demonstrate their vaccination status to the Commonwealth with a vaccine approved or recognised by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

Arrivals will also be required to test negative to COVID-19 within 72 hours of their departure and will be required to undertake testing within 24 hours of arrival into Victoria.

In line with Commonwealth protocols, children under 12 arriving with fully vaccinated parents and people with a valid medical exemption will be considered fully vaccinated.

Any person who tests positive for COVID-19 once in Victoria, or their primary close contact, will be required to isolate at home just as any other case in the community, while unvaccinated international travellers will be subject to mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine unless they can prove their vaccination status during their quarantine period.

International travellers in hotel quarantine as of 1 November who have had their vaccination status verified on the Australian Immunisation Register and who have returned a negative test will be released regardless of whether they have completed 14 days’ quarantine.

From 1 November, Victoria will cap the number of unvaccinated or unverified international travellers at 250 a week.

Retail trade sector guidance – Frequently asked questions

What vaccination requirements apply in retail at Phase C (80%) of the Roadmap?

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer has determined that on Friday 29 October at 6:00pm, Victoria will move forward in opening up and more restrictions will ease away. Metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria will operate under the same settings and retail will be open.

Customers attending general retail (e.g. clothing store) and essential retail (e.g. supermarket) will not be required to provide information on being fully vaccinated. Workers in general retail (e.g. clothing store) and essential retail (e.g. supermarket) are required to be vaccinated by the dates specified in the COVID-19 Mandatory Vaccination (Workers) Directions (second dose required by 26 November 2021).

What vaccination requirements apply to workers in retail at Phase D (90%) of the Roadmap?

On Sunday 24 October 2021, the Victorian Government announced that as Victoria enters Phase D of the National Roadmap to Delivery the National Plan, all workers in general retail (e.g. clothing store) must be fully vaccinated to allow density limits to be lifted at this time. It is anticipated that Victoria will reach Phase D of the Roadmap around 24 November 2021. If your workers are not fully vaccinated, your business may not be able to open.  Encourage your workers to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Vaccination protects you, your family and those in the community who are unable to get vaccinated.

What vaccination requirements apply to customers in retail at Phase D (90%) of the Roadmap?

On Sunday 24 October 2021, the Victorian Government announced that as Victoria enters Phase D of the National Roadmap to Delivery the National Plan (estimated to be around 24 November 2021), all customers attending general retail must be fully vaccinated to allow density limits to be lifted at this time. Victoria will reach Phase D of the Roadmap around 24 November 2021. More detailed guidance will be finalised closer to that date. Vaccination protects you, your family and those in the community who are unable to get vaccinated. We encourage everyone to get vaccinated as quickly as possible.

For other retail trade FAQs related to current restrictions, visit Retail trade sector guidance – Frequently asked questions HERE.

QUEENSLAND NEWS

ELIGIBLE CRITICAL/ESSENTIAL WORKERS IDENTIFIED AS CLOSE CONTACTS EXEMPT FROM ISOLATION, WITH CONDITIONS

Critical Queensland workers will be able to provide essential services while they are classified close contacts provided they meet strict health criteria.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the move was restricted to a narrow range of industries to ensure essential services and supplies like groceries, petrol, energy, water, freight and others could continue.

Workers will need to be fully vaccinated and must wear a mask. They must be asymptomatic.

Critical or essential workers who are eligible and are able to work during the usual close contact quarantine
period will be required to:

  • travel to and from work in a private vehicle
  • while travelling and working, wear appropriate PPE
  • maintain personal hygiene (hand washing etc)
  • undertake regular symptom surveillance
  • undertake a RAT on Day 6, consistent with the requirements for all close contacts.

If at any stage they develop symptoms, they need to return to quarantine immediately.

Employers need to determine if their organisation or business falls under the narrow list of critical industries, then identify which roles within their organisation are critical and cannot be performed from home, before notifying the Queensland Government.

A ‘critically essential worker’ will be defined as someone employed in one of the following industries, who must be in the workplace to do their job:

  • health
  • emergency services, including Police
  • the resource sector
  • power/utilities
  • agriculture and fisheries production
  • freight and logistics
  • public transport
  • teachers
  • essential retail such as supermarkets and stores in remote locations/communities
  • major manufacturing, distribution, and critical supply chains (for example food and petrol).

While they can go to work if they are a critical worker, they must continue to follow all other quarantine
requirements.

FROM 17 DECEMBER, ONLY DOUBLE VACCINATED STAFF & PATRONS ALLOWED IN CERTAIN VENUES

From 17 December 2021, or once the State reaches 80% of eligible Queenslanders fully vaccinated whichever comes first:

  • Events at all Queensland government stadiums including Suncorp, The Gabba, Queensland Country Bank and Metricon will be for the fully vaccinated only including staff.  That includes Big Bash, T20, One Day Internationals, NRL, AFL, State of Origin and concerts.
  • Hospitality venues including pubs, clubs, hotels, bars, restaurants and cafes will be open only to vaccinated staff and patrons.
  • Entertainment venues including live music and karaoke bars will be for vaccinated staff and patrons only.
  • Music festivals both indoor and outdoor will be for vaccinated staff, performers and patrons only.
  • Government-owned galleries, museums and libraries will be for vaccinated only.
  • No COVID limit on weddings where all attendees are vaccinated.

The Public Health and Social Measures linked to vaccination status Direction will be in effect from 5am AEST Friday 17 December 2021. Until then, see Restrictions on Businesses, Activities and Undertakings Direction (No. 29) that is in effect until then.

WESTERN AUSTRALIA NEWS

MANDATORY VACCINATION DEADLINE FOR WA WORKFORCES

Premier Mark McGowan has announced a phased approach that will see two groups of workforces subject to mandatory vaccination by certain dates, with a third group required to be vaccinated in the event of a lockdown. 

GROUP 1

First dose by 1 December 2021 and fully vaccinated by 31 December 2021:

  • Industries determined to have high transmission risk, or are a vulnerability risk or are necessary or critical to the safety of the community. For further information on the list, click HERE.

GROUP 2

First dose by 31 December 2021 and fully vaccinated by 31 January 2022:

  • Industries and workforce deemed critical to ongoing delivery of business and the function of the community, including but not limited to:
    • Supermarkets, grocery and bakery
    • Restaurant, pub, bar or café
    • Post office
    • Hardware stores
    • Petrol station, truck stops and roadhouses
    • Hotel, motel or other accommodation
  • This requirement will be put in place to ensure the continuity of key services and businesses in the event of expected community transmission. For further information on the list, click HERE.

LOCKDOWN

Must be fully vaccinated to attend work during a lockdown or similar restrictions:

  • These critical workers must be fully vaccinated to leave home to attend work, to decrease transmission risk and prevent impact on the delivery of services. These workers include but are not limited to:
    • Other click and collect retail
    • Bottle shop
    • Newsagents
    • Pet stores
    • Wholesalers

NORTHERN TERRITORY NEWS

NT MAKES CHANGES TO ALLOW ASYMPTOMATIC CLOSE CONTACTS TO FULFILL ESSENTIAL ROLES

Chief Minister Michael Gunner has announced on Monday, 10 January 2022, some changes for fully vaccinated, asymptomatic people who are essential workers who is considered essential for their workplace to function.

They can continue to work if take a daily rapid antigen test, wear their mask and stay isolated for 7 days when not at work.

"This only applies if you are an essential workers and are needed in order to keep that workplace functioning. These are things we've actually done before in specific situations, like we did with Woolworths in Katherine," Mr Gunner says.

Examples provided by Mr Gunner include:

  • Childcare centres must stay open, every parent knows this. A childcare worker who is considered a close contact but is not symptomatic can continue working if they wear a mask and getting tested if they are necessary to keep their childcare centre open
  • If a nurse at RDH is a close contact but is asymptomatic and continues testing negative, they can continue working while observing all the other safety measures they already have in place like PPE.
  • A close contact supermarket worker can keep working while testing negative and being asymptomatic, as long as they are wearing their mask and staying away from common areas like break rooms.

VACCINATION MANDATES FOR FRONTLINE WORKERS

COVID-19 vaccinations will be mandatory for many workers by the end of the year to protect the community as we move towards COVID-safe freedoms. 

The Chief Health Officer Direction will make it mandatory for certain workers to have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by 12 November 2021 to continue working in the same role.

Those workers must be fully vaccinated by 24 December 2021.

Workers who are required to get the COVID-19 vaccine are:

  • Workers who come into direct contact with people who are at risk of severe illness from COVID, including Aboriginal people and people who cannot be vaccinated due to age or a medical condition;
  • Workers who are at an increased risk of contracting COVID-19 because they work in a high-risk setting where there is a known risk of COVID-19 transmission or outbreak; and
  • Workers who perform work in essential infrastructure, food or essential good security or supply, or logistics in the Territory.

Relevant employees who are not vaccinated by 13 November 2021 will not be permitted to attend their workplace, and will face a $5,000 fine if they do not comply with the Chief Health Officer Direction.

The Direction allows employers to request proof of vaccination, and requires them to keep a register of staff showing their vaccination status. It also acknowledges that a booster will be required for workers in 2022 and that the Direction will be amended to mandate the booster when it becomes available. 

AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY NEWS

ACT WILL NOT REQUIRE PROOF OF VACCINATION STATUS FOR RETAIL

The ACT Government will not require proof of vaccination status to access public settings, or private businesses other than particular high-risk settings identified by the ACT Chief Health Officer (this will not include retail). The ACT Government has stated that it is the role of the business owner to stay informed and undertake risk-based assessments for the safety of employees, customers and others.

The ACT Government guidance goes further to note that subject to any risk assessment and the requirements of anti-discrimination laws, including the Discrimination Act 1991 (ACT), and, where applicable, the Human Rights Act 2004 (ACT), controls may include exercising their existing right to impose, as a condition of entry, a requirement that persons attending the premises have received an approved COVID-19 vaccine.

Workplace COVID-19 vaccinations

Employers may contemplate introducing a mandatory vaccination against COVID-19 requirement for its employees where:

  • vaccination is required by a specific law (such as a public health order or directive);
  • vaccination is required under a contract of employment; or
  • where it would be lawful and reasonable for an employer to direct employees to be vaccinated.

Prior to the introduction of mandatory vaccination in the workplace employers should obtain legal advice in respect of the risks.

Vaccinations feature image_02-min

If you are considering implementing a mandatory vaccination policy or directive, but want to better understand your obligations and risks as an employer, contact NRA Legal on 1800 572 679.

COVID-19 vaccinations: workplace rights and obligations

The latest advice and answers to frequently asked questions from the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Is a direction to get a vaccination likely to be lawful and reasonable?

Broadly, unless a specific health order or directive requires vaccination, employers will be relying on an argument that a direction to be vaccinated is ‘lawful and reasonable’ if they are looking to implement a mandatory vaccination policy.

Whether or not a direction to be vaccinated is ‘lawful and reasonable’ will depend on a number of factors, including but not limited to:

  • the nature of the employee’s role and the work being performed;
  • the industry in which the employer operates;
  • the public health environment, including the extent of community transmission where the direction is to be given;
  • an employer’s work health and safety obligations;
  • vaccine availability; and
  • the extent of in-person public interaction between the employee’s duties and the possibility of social distancing; and
  • each employee’s individual circumstances.

I want to introduce a mandatory vaccination policy, what now?

In circumstances where a state or territory’s public health order requires staff to be vaccinated, a direction that employees vaccinate against COVID-19 is likely a reasonably practicable step that employers must consider in line with their responsibilities under work health and safety laws.

However, in circumstances where there is no clear government requirement to mandate vaccination, many employers are increasingly struggling to balance their work health and safety obligations against their privacy, and other obligations toward staff. Importantly, employers must continue to have regard for reasonably practicable steps they can take to discharge their obligations under Work health and safety laws and whether that includes mandatory vaccination, will depend on the circumstances of each business.

This is a rapidly developing space, there are several key risks and other factors that employers should be aware of, before seeking to mandate vaccines for their staff. They include, but are not limited to:

  • a need to ensure compliance with Australian privacy laws. For example, the Australian Privacy Act (1988) (Cth) provides for 13 privacy principles that regulate the way some employers must deal with, collect, store, or use ‘private’ information such as vaccination records. Civil and criminal penalties may apply for any breaches;
  • a need to ensure compliance with anti-discrimination laws, which prohibit employers from treating employees with protected attributes (such as age, disability, pregnancy, etc) differently based on their protected attributes;
  • a need to ensure appropriate consultation with workforces prior to implementing the vaccine, as required under various industrial instruments and work health and safety legislation. Any failure to consult with workers could present legal risk and impact the prospect of success of future legal proceedings, including dismissal claims arising from a failure to comply with the policy; and
  • a need to ensure appropriate measures are in place for dealing with refusals, exemptions, changes in government directives, changes in the availability of vaccines, or a dispute being bought by an employee.

Employers who mandate vaccination but who are not prepared to address or respond to the above issues relatively quickly, may find themselves in a battle with unions, employees, or regulatory bodies.

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