Yesterday afternoon, the PSA received a response to our feedback on the DCJ Vaccination policy.
You can view that response HERE.
Following the feedback received from the PSA, the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) made a number of changes to the policy. These include:
- The PSA sought confirmation that DCJ would explore ‘all other options’, including working from home, modification of duties, etc. before a decision is made on the employment of a person with a medical contraindication and a reasonable adjustment can’t be made. The policy and associated documents have been updated to reflect that all other relevant options must be explored before any decision is reached.
- The PSA asked that the policy should include the steps taken before a medical contraindication is referred to the Government medical assessment provider. This has been incorporated into the Policy and associated documents.
- The PSA requested that employees be given the option of submitting their medical contraindication certificate to a nominated officer when they don’t wish to submit the certificate to their manager. The Policy and associated documents now state that the employee can submit their contraindication certificate to their manager, one-up manager or People Business Partner.
- The PSA sought a specification on the timeframe for ‘initial contact’ with employees who have not complied with the vaccine requirements, as the initial policy was too vague. The Policy has been updated to include a statement that employees will be contacted within seven days after entering onto leave.
- The PSA sought that for employees who do not comply, each individual case be determined on its merits. DCJ agreed and decisions will be made accordingly.
- The PSA raised concerns regarding the storage of employees’ information, medical data on the employees P-File and the security of these files in terms of who has access. The Department responded that P-Files are stored in accordance with the Departments Records Management Policy and there are appropriate rules within this policy for how employees’ records are stored and who has access. The Policy and associated procedure now includes details about what information is collected, and how the information will be used.
- The PSA sought that copies all risk assessments be provided. DCJ confirmed that all risk assessments are complete, and available on the DCJ intranet for all staff to access.
- The PSA sought information on potential requirements for Booster shots. The policy has been updated to reflect the potential that booster shots may be required in the future.
- The PSA sought information on regular review periods. DCJ confirmed the policy has a review period of six months from the date of approval and committed to continuing to consult on the Policy and associated risk assessments.
In addition to the changes above, the policy has also been updated to include the creation of a panel that will consider requests from employees seeking an exemption from the vaccine requirement for ‘exceptional circumstances’ that aren’t related to a medical contraindication. A panel led by the People Branch will assess such requests. The PSA considers this a positive addition, which will allow individuals who may have exemption requests that don’t neatly fit into the limited “medical contraindication” reasons to have their reasons considered. Please note, DCJ has made it clear in its policy that personal reluctance to undertake vaccination or a general objection or opposition to vaccination will not be considered an exceptional circumstance. The PSA advises individuals who feel they have exceptional circumstances to review the DCJ COVID-19 Vaccination Policy Employee Fact Sheet for information on how to submit their request.
Areas of concern
Employees who do not comply
- The PSA sought that employees who wish to take their own leave (therefore removing themselves from the workplace and the risk) until such time as an alternative vaccine was available, be allowed to do so without disciplinary action being started. The Department has not agreed to this, and has stated that employees will be required to comply with the requirement to be vaccinated by the stipulated dates (first and second dose).
- The Department responded specifically to our representation around Novavax. The Department replied that, as of yesterday, Novavax has not been approved for use in Australia and, apparently, has not been approved for use anywhere in the world. DCJ does not agree to allow people to wait for approval of a vaccine that may not happen. The PSA encourages members who are holding out for Novavax to speak to their doctor about the three vaccines currently available.
All policy documents, including the full DCJ COVID-19 Vaccination Policy, the Employee Fact Sheet and the Exceptional Circumstances Form, are available on the intranet for staff to view.
The PSA will be meeting with DCJ representatives on Thursday 21 October to discuss the policy further, and will report back to our members following this meeting. In the meantime, the PSA encourages our members to seek information from their doctor regarding the three vaccines available.