Similar to last year’s flu season, all aged care workers who are providing care to residents in nursing homes are once again required to have an up-to-date influenza vaccination by 30 May 2021 if such a vaccination is available to the worker. This is due to a new aged care directive issued by Queensland's Chief Health Officer.
The 2021 flu vaccination is considered unavailable if:
- you have a medical contraindication (see below question for details), or
- are within the recommended 14 day waiting period between having the COVID-19 vaccine and flu vaccine, or
- your employer has not offered you a free vaccination during your rostered working hours (see below question for details).
If you are not up to date with your 2021 influenza vaccination and one is available to you, then you must not attend a nursing home after 30 May 2021.
This mandatory requirement to have the flu vaccine also applies to aged care visitors, facility staff, volunteers, students and others (e.g. cleaners, tradesmen, gardeners and maintenance staff). An exception is also available to a person who has not had the flu vaccine but is required to enter the facility for emergency repairs, for example, a plumber.
Please note that these restrictions are implemented by the federal and state governments, and have not been determined by the QNMU.
The restrictions aim to protect some of our most vulnerable Queenslanders, and as nursing staff caring for these residents, we must do everything we can to ensure our residents remain safe.
What does 'up-to-date' mean?
If you received the 2020 flu vaccination any time within the previous 12 months then you are up-to-date for the 2020 flu season. However, you will still need to receive the new 2021 flu vaccination as soon as possible and by no later than 30 May 2021 to comply with these new government regulations.
What if I cannot get the flu vaccine due to medical reasons or my conscientious objection?
If you are unable to have the influenza vaccine due to medical contraindication, you can continue to work at a nursing home.
As per the Queensland government’s Pandemic Response Guidance on PPE in aged care, your employer should also provide you with additional personal protective equipment for infection prevention and control.
If you have a medical contraindication for the influenza vaccination, the QNMU advises you to obtain written confirmation from your family doctor. Medical contraindication to the influenza vaccination is described within the current Australian Immunisation Handbook and the influenza vaccine product information.
If the influenza vaccination is available to you but you choose not to have the influenza vaccine due to conscientious objections, then you should speak to your employer about alternative working arrangements outside a nursing home, including redeployment (eg: to community aged care).
In looking for alternative work outside a nursing home, the employer does not have to create a special position for you.
If you need further assistance, contact the QNMU for a Request for Representation.
Does my employer have to make the flu vaccine available to me?
Yes. According to S. 8 of the Quality of Care Principles 2014, an approved provider of a residential care service must provide staff with access to annual influenza vaccinations for free.
An influenza vaccination is considered not available if your employer has not offered you a free vaccination during your rostered working hours, or an influenza vaccination is contra-indicated for you (ie: taking the vaccination will be harmful to your health).
Therefore, if your employer has not made available to you the 2021 influenza vaccine, you would not be prohibited from entering or remaining on the premises of a nursing home. However, the QNMU still strongly encourages members who can get the 2021 influenza vaccine to do so as soon as possible.
Members are encouraged to speak with their employer about what arrangements they are putting in place to ensure all staff are offered the free, government-funded vaccination as soon as possible.
What proof will I need to show my employer that I have had the flu vaccine?
Ask your vaccinator to give you a signed and dated vaccination card as proof of having the 2021 influenza vaccination. You may provide this to your employer.
What if a flu vaccination is available to me but I don’t get one, and my employer says they cannot deploy me to work anywhere else?
You should ask your employer whether they are instructing you to come to work or stay home. If your employer instructs you to stay home, you are entitled to be paid wages while you are complying with that instruction. If your employer does not direct you to stay home, you may request accrued annual leave, long service leave (if you have qualified for it), any other paid leave that is available to you, or unpaid leave.
Is this requirement permanent or temporary?
We anticipate the Chief Health Officer will continue to make the influenza vaccination mandatory for periods of time (eg: during flu seasons while an approved flu vaccine is available) until the end of the declared pandemic emergency.