Business frustrated by NSW Government flip-flop on vaccine rule and sudden end of rapid antigen testing plan

Authorised essential workers who reside in one of the 12 Greater Sydney LGAs of concern now have until Monday September 6 to have received their first COVID vaccination dose after the NSW Government extended the deadline and scrapped on-site rapid antigen testing as a back-up.

The revised plan was announced late last Friday capping off a busy week for many businesses which had scrambled to ensure their staff had at least had one COVID jab by Monday August 30.

Now under the new plan, effected authorised workers have until Monday September 6 to have had their first jab or if this is not possible to have been issued with a medical contraindication certification which can be shown to their employer.

“NSW Health is announcing changes in requirements for vaccination of authorised workers and the use of rapid antigen testing in the workplace,” NSW Health said in a statement.

“In order to work outside their area of concern, authorised workers must now have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Monday 6 September.

“Authorised workers under the age of 16 years will be exempt from the requirement to be vaccinated.

“Rapid antigen testing will no longer be an alternative to vaccination.”

On-site rapid antigen testing was first floated as an idea a few weeks ago as a back up for staff who had not yet had the jab or were choosing not to be vaccinated but that has also been scrapped.

The current areas of concern this relates to are: Bayside, Blacktown, Burwood, Campbelltown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Fairfield, Georges River, Liverpool, Parramatta, Strathfield, and some suburbs of Penrith.

NSW Govt urged to ‘do your homework’

Impact International, located in the Fairfield LGA, is one Sydney business that had worked hard to ensure rapid antigen testing would be available for staff who still hadn’t had their first dose by the deadline.

Managing director Aleks Lajovic spent the last couple of weeks preparing for this and is now deeply frustrated by the late change, but is relieved that he was able to cancel it at the last minute.

Impact International managing director Aleks Lajovic

Lajovic said Impact International was prepared to pay for the rapid testing for September at a cost of $6000, and thereafter it would be up to employees to pay for their own tests if they were unable to be vaccinated, or chose not to be.

“I think I probably wasted about 10 hours of my life organising rapid testing and having staff meetings to talk about the LGAs so everyone understood what was needing to happen but it was all for nothing,” Lajovic told Sprinter.

“I think the government has just got to come out and say what it wants rather than be too political and dance around everything. The government has just got to come out and do their job and govern.”

No jab, no work from Monday September 6

Now, under the revised plan effected workers in the areas of concern who have not had their first shot, or have a medical exemption, will not be able to come to work from Monday September 6.

Lajovic says this poses many questions for business owners.

“How does that person get paid? Is that person entitled to annual leave? Does that person go to the government and ask for a COVID relief payment? Is that person entitled to sick leave? What happens if that person is a casual and they have no annual leave? These are all the up in the air things that I have not seen one piece of information from the government which says this is what happens,” Lajovic said.

“This creates uncertainty for people and there are a lot of people in this world that live month to month and week to week so this is just creating a lot of stress for employers and employees and not giving any real benefit from what I can see. They just need to say to everyone you have got to get vaccinated, full stop.”

Worker permits from Monday August 30

Workers who reside in any of the 12 Greater Sydney LGA’s of concern and need to leave the area for work also must carry a worker permit through Service NSW. Worker permits can be downloaded from Service NSW, here.

The Real Media Collective GM of IR, Policy and Governance Charles Watson said the late notice change on the rapid antigen testing will no doubt cause frustration for the businesses out there that had spent time and money on having the on-site rapid testing established.

“This is part of the concern as last week a number of businesses were trying to really push their guys to get at least one dose or implement rapid antigen testing, and now it has been deemed to not be an alternative to the vaccination,” Watson told Sprinter.

“You can still have the rapid antigen testing but if you are a worker coming out of your LGA, the rapid antigen testing has been done away with and you have been given an extra week to get your first dose.

“Until Friday some businesses were looking to implement it and now they have changed their minds even though some businesses were already signed up to undertake it in the workplace.

“It is disappointing to be told late on Friday that what you were working on and had outlaid cost for is gone and that was something that businesses didn’t have to do and now it is case of ‘no’ you have just been given an extra week to get the first dose.”

The changes come as Victoria remains in lockdown, along with the entire state of NSW.

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