Yesterday, Fams was joined (at ridiculously short notice) by Angus McFarland, Assistant Secretary of the ASU NSW & ACT Services Branch, and David Prior, Workplace Relations Specialist at Jobs Australia. 

Public Health Orders are changing rapidly, and you need to keep up to date with the latest rules.  

From Saturday 28 August 2021, it has been a requirement to register your travel within NSW if leaving Greater Sydney or leaving or entering an area of concern for work.  

The travel registration is valid for a maximum of 14 days, and you will need to reapply if: 

  • you are travelling for more than 14 days, or 
  • your travel dates change or need to be amended. 

You must carry your travel registration and supporting documents with you at all times as you will need to provide these to NSW Police (or other authority) if requested. Supporting documents may include a letter from your employer with: 

  • your employer details (on letterhead) and your details; 
  • what work you do and why you need to travel; 
  • your hours of work – for example, 8am to 4pm, Monday to Friday; 
  • the dates over which the work will be carried out; and 
  • contact details of someone in your organisation should authorities want to confirm travel requirements. 

As it stands, from Monday 6 September 2021, if you are an authorised worker and live in or are temporarily staying in an LGA of concern you must not leave your local government area for work unless you have:  

  • had at least 1 dose of a COVID-19 vaccine; or  
  • evidence of a medical exemption; and 
  • you must carry evidence of vaccination or exemption. 

While the specific detail in the Public Health Orders may change, the ASU and Jobs Australia were in total agreement about some underpinning principles and approaches that employers and employees equally should be taking: 

  • Public Health Orders have the force of law – there is no room for negotiation about whether you comply or not. Deliberate non-compliance by workers reduces the options available to organisations. Penalties under the Public Health Orders are enforceable. 
  • It is critical that we use the right language – a single source of truth – to reinforce compliance. The NSW Government makes the Public Health Orders that set the legal requirements for the foreseeable future. It is not DCJ, not organisations and not individuals who get to make the rules, or apply their own interpretation. 
  • Communication between employers and employees is key to being ready for 6 September and beyond. Open, honest and respectful communication needs to start now. It is not bullying for an organisation to ask staff about their travel registration and vaccination status. In the current circumstances, these are essential discussions that must take place.  
  • Priority vaccinations for authorised workers are available. However, we need to accept that despite people’s best efforts, some may not have had their first vaccination by Monday 6 September. This needs to be identified early and discussions had to put reasonable and practical onsite and work from home service delivery strategies in place before next Monday. There is no one-size-fits-all solution but could include: 
    • swapping shifts between staff; 
    • rostering staff off for a period; 
    • encouraging staff to take leave (with or without pay); 
    • providing flexibility to attend vaccination appointments; 
    • offering reduced hours to better facilitate working from home arrangements; or 
    • offering other, or different, meaningful work that can be performed from home. 
    • Employees should be stood down as a last resort, and only after proper industrial or legal advice is obtained on the specific circumstances in question. 

Jobs Australia is a membership organisation for employers. 

ASU NSW & ACT Services Branch is a membership organisation for employees.  

Where can I find further information?