Please note: the following responses were provided to TasCOSS by the Department of Health.
Are COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for community service workers who are providing social supports in a community-based setting (not a traditional medical or health service)? Examples of services can include mental health counselling, sexual assault and family violence support, child and family support, youth work and alcohol and other drug counselling.
Yes, the Public Health Direction covers two kinds of workers:
- Workers at a health/medical facility; and
- Health/medical workers, which includes allied health such as mental health, social work and counselling professionals (regardless of location).
Allied health professionals are included in the group requiring mandatory vaccination by virtue of the fact that they provide health and medical treatment, regardless of setting. This is because the definition “health and medical services or treatments” includes services and treatments provided by several allied health professionals, including counsellors. For a list of workers requiring vaccination, please refer to: Health Care Settings | Coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
In any case, the definition of a health/medical service includes “premises where health and medical services or treatments are provided on a regular basis.” Based on this definition, community-based services would qualify as a health/medical service by virtue of the allied health services being provided there on a regular basis. If your organisation is a health or medical service/facility for the purposes of the mandatory vaccination provisions, then all staff in the organisation will need to be vaccinated.
Some community-based services will have social workers and psychologists in the same team as, for example, youth workers with qualifications in Education or Community Services (Diploma) or a Bachelor of Youth Work. When working in the same community-based team, are the allied health professionals listed under the Public Health Direction required to be vaccinated while the other staff aren’t as their qualifications aren’t listed?
In this case, the service would qualify as a “health and medical facility” due to the psychologists regularly working there, which means that all workers at that facility would be captured.
What happens when a staff member doesn’t comply with the Public Health Direction? What are the industrial relations issues and implications for employers and employees?
Under the Public Health Direction, both workers and facilities have obligations (and thus, both may potentially be in breach). That is distinct from industrial issues that may emerge from this requirement. The Department of Health cannot provide advice on industrial issues, please refer to the Fair Work website in the first instance (COVID-19 vaccinations: Workplace rights and obligations).