Some unvaccinated workers can return to the office in Sydney now that lockdown has finished – even as new rules kick in banning them from gyms, cafes and pubs.
For most of the three-month lockdown, employees living in 12 local government areas of concern, mainly in the city’s west and south-west, were only allowed to leave their local government area (LGA) if they were deemed an essential worker – with police officers, supermarket workers and journalists on this list.
Even then, they were required to have had at least one vaccination or provide proof of a negative Covid test.
But from Monday, the New South Wales government will no longer have designated councils of concern, following the end of a 106-day lockdown.
Unvaccinated workers will be able to return to the office in Sydney following a new post-lockdown loophole (pictured are commuters in Sydney’s Martin Place on October 11 following the end of a three-month lockdown)
That means staff from suburbs in the Blacktown, Liverpool and Campbelltown LGAs can return to work despite those postcodes each being home to more than 200 active cases.
Employment lawyer Joydeep Hor, the founder and managing principal of People + Culture Strategies, said rapid antigen testing was a time-consuming way of determining if staff from high-case suburbs were Covid negative.
‘I know some employers are toying with the idea of the testing as an alternative to the vaccination which is largely impractical,’ he told Daily Mail Australia on Monday.
Mr Hor said employers would be better off mandating vaccination for all staff coming into the office, regardless of the industry, and criticised the state government for only requiring jabs in selected industries instead of all workplaces.
‘It is not an unreasonable expectation of employers that they would require staff to be vaccinated to discharge those health and safety obligations,’ he said.
‘A lot of employers, a lot of organisations were really struggling to understand what their rights were in that particular space.
‘There was a lot of mixed messaging, governments falling short of saying to employers that is something you have to do.’
Mr Hor, who has 25 years’ experience advising employers, said any private sector boss who sacked a worker for being unvaccinated would most likely prevail before the Fair Work Commission, a federal government agency that handles unfair dismissal disputes.
That means staff from suburbs around Blacktown, Liverpool and Campbelltown can return to work despite those postcodes each being home to more than 200 active cases
‘So far, all of the decisions that have looked at that issue peripherally – the question of whether or not, Covid vaccination policies are mandatory, is reasonable – have fallen in favour of the employer,’ he said.
Hairdressers, beauticians, masseurs and gym staff must be fully vaccinated along with their customers.
Cafe, restaurant and pub patrons will have to confirm that vaccination status by showing their Medicare app.
Away from face-to-face roles, employers won’t be allowed to force staff to come back into the office until 90 per cent of working-age teenagers and adults in NSW are fully vaccinated, which is not expected to occur until December 1.
The NSW government is recommending bosses keep their staff working from home where it was practicable, even with 70 per cent and 80 per cent double vaccination rates.
Aged and healthcare workers from October 31 will be required to have had at least one dose of a Covid vaccine to enter a workplace except in an emergency.
From Monday, the New South Wales government will no longer have designated councils of concern, following the end of a 106-day lockdown (pictured is Premier Dominic Perrottet getting a haircut on October 11 to celebrate the end of restrictions)
Employment lawyer Joydeep Hor, the founder and managing principal of People + Culture Strategies, said rapid antigen testing was a time-consuming way of determining if staff from high-case suburbs were Covid negative
From November 30, they will be required to be fully vaccinated.
Airport, transport and construction workers are already required to have had two immunisation doses or had one injection at least 21 days ago.
Teachers and early childcare staff will from November 8 will be required to be fully vaccinated unless they have a medical exemption.
Jobs Minister Stuart Ayres made no mention of this loophole for unvaccinated workers, outside most frontline roles, in a joint statement with new Premier Dominic Perrottet hailing the end of lockdown, with more than 70 per cent of NSW residents, aged 16 and over, now fully vaccinated.
‘We need the same spirit of cooperation to keep people safe and ensure that venues remain open,’ he said.
‘Like many people, I can’t wait to have a beer and a schnitty at my local, but we all have a responsibility to stick by the rules.
‘Book ahead, check-in with your QR code, show proof of vaccination, be respectful to staff and look after each other.’