Northern Territory sets March deadline for booster shots

How should HR implement vaccine mandates on a mass scale?

Northern Territory sets March deadline for booster shots

Northern Territory will be expanding its vaccine mandate to include booster shots for workers designated in high-risk settings, according to Chief Minister Michael Gunner. Gunner announced on Friday that all workers in hospitals, residential aged care facilities, disability homes, as well as correctional and detention facilities and shelters are required to get their booster shots by March 11. According to Gunner, the said workers could also get their booster shots four weeks after they become eligible.

Workers in public-facing roles, on the other hand, must get their booster shot by April 22, ABC News reported.

"You are required to be fully vaccinated if in the course of your work you come into contact with vulnerable people, your workplace carries a high risk of infection, or you perform work that is necessary for the operation or maintenance of essential infrastructure in the Territory," said Gunner as quoted by Nine News.

The chief minister said only one-third of the state's population have received their booster shots, leaving a lot still vulnerable to COVID-19.  For other state residents, however, Gunner said that they should also expect booster mandates to arrive.

"It would be fair to assume you may need a fourth booster down the track and then we will mandate that as well," he said.

The Northern Territory last year introduced a controversial sweeping vaccine mandate that aimed to fully immunise a lot of employees by Christmas Eve. Failure to comply would mean getting slapped with a $5,000 fine. The new vaccine mandate came as the territory reported 940 new cases of COVID-19. The Northern Territory's mandate follows the announcement of New South Wales and Victoria, which also expanded their vaccine requirements to include booster shots. 

How should HR implement jab mandates?

When implementing vaccine mandates, employers should carefully consider "specific circumstances" of their workplaces, including the nature, role, and industry that they belong to, according to Amy Zhang, executive counsel and team leader, Harmers Workplace Lawyers. Zhang told HRD that there is a no "one size fits all" approach and there may be different cases for employees even from the same fields.

"Employers will also need to consider whether there are reasonable alternatives to vaccination that can be implemented, which will still ensure employers meet their WHS (work health and safety) obligations, such as PCR and rapid antigen testing, directions to wear masks and work from home if symptomatic, social distancing, no hot-desking or sharing of desks, and regular cleaning," said Zhang.

If there are other reasonable alternatives to vaccinations in the workplace, then that means less reasons for the employer to introduce mandatory jabs, according to the counsel.

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