From 15 June 2021, residential aged care providers must report workforce COVID-19 vaccinations. Here’s what you need to know.
What do I have to report?
- Total number of workers at each aged care service
- Total number of workers at each service who have received a single dose of a COVID-19 vaccine
- Total number of workers at each service who have received all required doses of a COVID-19 vaccine
When do I have to report?
Reporting is mandatory from 15 June 2021. From then on, you must report every week. This means you must collect data every week and report it every week.
How do I report?
An online reporting tool is now available for providers to use on a voluntary basis via My Aged Care.
The definition of “worker” is broad and includes volunteers
The definition of worker is broad and includes anyone (including volunteers) responsible for resident care, support and services for residents, maintenance or administration at a residential care facility.
According to the Department of Health, “Workers means all individuals, including volunteers, who access, or are reasonably likely to access, any premises where the operation or administration of the service occurs (as defined in the Quality of Care Principles).” This includes:
- nursing and personal care staff
- allied health professionals
- administration staff
- kitchen, cleaning, laundry and garden staff.
Vaccination and disclosure of vaccination status are voluntary
At this time, workers do not have to get COVID-19 vaccinated. Also, workers do not have to tell you whether or not they are vaccinated, and you should not pressure them to answer.
If a worker declines to provide information on their vaccination status, you should still include them in the total number of workers at the service.
Evidence of vaccination status is not required
Workers do not have to provide evidence of their vaccination status. In fact, the Department of Health advises that “Workers should not be required to provide evidence to confirm their vaccination status.” While evidence is not required for reporting purposes, if this information is freely given by the employee it will be very useful in planning for and managing COVID-19 outbreaks.
The Department advises that if a worker wants to show evidence of their vaccination, they can provide:
- a vaccination certification or other evidence from a vaccine provider
- an immunisation history statement which they can access from Medicare online or the Express Plus Medicare mobile app
- a signed declaration
- a record from a health practitioner.
What should I say to my workers?
The Department of Health encourages you to “have respectful conversations with workers on the new reporting of
aged care workforce COVID-19 vaccination status and to ensure they understand:
- why this information is being collected, including as part of the facility’s COVID-19 preparedness and planning
- COVID-19 vaccination is voluntary, as is disclosing information on their vaccination status to their employer
- the approved provider is not required to collect or store workers’ personal information in order to report on the vaccination status of the workforce
- that any information collected and maintained by the approved provider will adhere to privacy requirements
- the details of their personal vaccination status will not be reported to the Department of Health
- COVID-19 vaccination and/or disclosure of their vaccination status is not a mandatory requirement under Commonwealth or state and territory law, and
- their right to decline to provide this information without any recrimination or judgement.
You should also consider sharing with your workers this fact sheet from the Department of Health: COVID-19 vaccination – Why is my residential aged care employer asking me if I have received a COVID-19 vaccination?
Workers who work at multiple sites
The Department of Health advises that if a worker “works across multiple sites with your organisation, you should include them in the data once for their primary site (the facility where they work the most).” You should also include agency staff or staff who work at other facilities if their most regular and frequent shifts occur at one of your residential aged care services.
What happens if I don’t comply with the reporting requirements?
The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC) will monitor compliance with the reporting requirements and has power to take regulatory action if you do not comply. This may include sanctions.
Use this reporting requirement to your advantage
The data you will have to collect from 15 June 2021 is minimal: you only have to collect the total number of workers, and number of vaccinations. But it will still cost you time, staffing resources and effort to collect and report on this information every week. So why not get something useful out of a task you have to do anyway?
When drafting your data collection forms, consider adding a few more fields that you can fill in when talking to your workers or reviewing records. These might include:
- Name, role and other details of the worker along with their vaccination status – this will help you to allocate vaccinated and unvaccinated workers to appropriate zones in the event of a COVID outbreak.
- Worker status (employee, contractor, volunteer).
- Does the worker work at any other sites? Which sites?
- Which vaccine have they received? (AstraZeneca or Pfizer).
- Date the vaccine(s) were received.
- If the worker has had only one shot, when is the second shot due?
- If the worker provided evidence of vaccination, what is the evidence?
- Details of the worker’s consent regarding the information they have provided you.
When collecting information from workers make sure you adhere to privacy requirements:
- This information must be given voluntarily and without duress.
- Explain how you will be using this information (for example: to fulfill your duty of care to residents, and to ensure workplace health and safety for workers).
- Explain which pieces of information are required for reporting required by government.
- Explain the consequences of not providing the information.