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Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccinations: FAQs

ACSA continues to receive member enquiries regarding the National Cabinet's recent statement concerning COVID-19 vaccination and residential aged care employees.


14 Jul 2021

The states and territories are yet to issue orders or directions to enact the mandate for COVID-19 vaccination and the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) is currently working with the Department of Health to get formal advice on medical exemptions. ACSA will provide an update to members once this information is available.

We have also seen various emails and letters from vocal anti-vaccination groups, spreading misinformation to the general population, Aged Care providers and employees. 

Whilst vaccine availability and access are still proving challenging, it is critical that you continue to communicate with and educate your staff on the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination and encourage staff to be vaccinated.

The Australian Government Department of Health webpages Information for aged care providers, workers and residents about COVID-19 vaccines and Information for residential aged are workers about COVID-19 vaccines provide information for employers and employees and resources have been translated into 19 languages. There are also evidence-based answers to questions about vaccines on their webpage, COVID-19 vaccines - Is it true?

Corporate psychology provider Veraison have put together some information, including a factsheet and a short video, that may be helpful in guiding you as to how communication and engagement with staff could be most effective in dealing with vaccine hesitancy.

We have taken your questions to the Department of Health and have received the following responses.

What will be the acceptable exemptions for people not to have the vaccine?

The Department of Health is working with ATAGI to get formal advice on medical exemptions and will provide advice to the sector as quickly as possible.

 

Clarification regarding the scope of staff covered, specifically, does the funding cover:

  • Contractors who are contracted in to provide services within a facility (contractors could be nursing/personal care workers, hotel services, etcetera)?
    Contractors are not eligible under the grant. The intent of the grant is providing casual staff, who typically don’t have leave entitlements or guaranteed hours, with financial support should they need to go off-site to obtain a vaccination during a rostered shift.

  • Are Board members covered?
    No, board members do not fit the definition of an aged care worker.

  • What is the case for visiting GPs, allied health professionals etc. (who are not ‘employees’), are they captured within the funding provisions?
    No, GPs, allied health professionals etc. who are not employees are not eligible.

  • Volunteers, are they captured by the definition of ‘workers’ i.e. can they be reimbursed through the funding for their COVID vaccine related costs?
    No, the intent of the grant is to support casual staff going off-site to receive a vaccination during a rostered shift or to provide them with a day’s paid leave if they suffer side effects from the vaccination and are unable to work their next rostered shift, providing that, the shift is within the next 24-48 hours.

  • Are ‘Home Care’ workers covered?
    Home care workers that also work in residential aged care settings are eligible through the Residential Aged Care COVID-19 Employee Vaccination Support Grant program. The grant program would be accessed for these workers through the residential aged care provider with which they are employed.

    All other home care workers are considered ineligible for the grant however they are eligible to access COVID-19 vaccination now through existing channels:​

    • Primary Care: including general practices, Commonwealth Vaccination Clinics and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Health Services. Refer to the eligibility checker for available clinics in your state and territory.

    • State and territory clinics: In-home aged care workers can get vaccinated at state and territory-run mass vaccination clinics. Refer to the eligibility checker for available clinics in the relevant state and territory.

  • In line with Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) recommendations, in-home aged care workers aged under 60 years will receive the Pfizer vaccine and those aged 60 years and over will receive the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.​

    In-home aged care workers aged 60 years and over can access an AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccination at a GP clinic, a Commonwealth Vaccination Clinic (GP respiratory clinic), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Health Service, or state and territory vaccination clinic. Workers aged under 60 can choose to access and AstraZeneca vaccine through informed consent with a GP.

    In-home workers should refer to the eligibility checker for available clinics in their state or territory, and check regularly as the listings are updated as clinics become available.

 

If casual staff get their vaccination on their rostered day-off is the provider still expected to reimburse the worker?

No, the reimbursement is to contribute towards the time casual staff are absent during a rostered shift to receive an off-site vaccination.

 

Are all casuals captured by the funding or only those who have worked in the last 4 weeks?

Only those who have been rostered on in the preceding four weeks, unless they were on holidays or on sick leave.

 

For casuals - what constitutes ‘primary place of work’?

For casuals the ‘primary place of work’ is the main aged care facility where the casual staff member works.  Provider’s may only claim for casuals where they are absent from the facility receiving a vaccination during a rostered shift.

 

Should providers claim now or wait until staff are vaccinated?

It’s a business decision for the Provider to determine when they should apply for a grant.  If a Provider is able to accurately estimate the level of support they require or has already incurred all costs associated with the vaccination rollout may apply now.  It may facilitate faster processing of the application if Providers apply prior to the close date of  29 October 2021.

 

Is the grant money to be paid through the payroll, and to be taxed etc.?

Category 1 and 2 payments are considered income and are subject to income tax when paid to aged care casual staff. Income tax should be at the aged care casual staff member’s allocated tax rate. The total net value of the payment is to be passed on to the staff member.

 

Is there a cap on the amount a provider can apply for, and if so what are the provisions around such a cap?

There isn’t a cap on what Providers can apply for however the criteria for each category must be met including:

  • Category 1 – the payment is a contribution toward the time the worker is absent from their rostered shift receiving a COVID-19 vaccination.

  • Category 2 – the payment of one days paid leave is for casual staff who after receiving a COVID-19 vaccination and was rostered on in the next 24-48 hrs was unable to work due to the side effects from the vaccination.

  • Category 3 – payment per residential aged care facility, for residential aged care facilities that have facilitated on or off-site vaccinations for staff.

Providers must retain records evidencing those casual staff applied for in Categories 1 and 2. The Department may conduct random or targeted audits throughout the grant process, during which Providers will be asked to provide the documents reference in Section 9.6 of the Guidelines.

If you have any questions regarding COVID-19 vaccinations, please contact ACSA Member Connect or ACSA Employee Relations on 1300 877 855. Alternatively, you can email memberconnect@acsa.asn.au or employeerelations@acsa.asn.au.

 

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