Since 22 October 2021 all religious workers are required to have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine (unless you have a medical exemption) to attend work. From 26 November 2021, you will also be required to provide evidence to your employer that you have received your second dose (unless you have a medical exemption) to attend work. The Definition of a Religious worker is someone who works in connection with a place of worship, including a chapel or church. A worker can be an employee, a contractor (engaged by the employer or a third party), a volunteer or a student on placement. Refer to the List of workers required to be vaccinated
In October we provided a Summary of BUV Support Hub Advice on Vaccinations Since then there has been no significant change to the Mandatory Vaccination (Workers) Directions issued by the Chief Health Officer that would warrant us amending our advice. At the time we provided the following template for churches Mandatory Vaccination Letter
Employers are required to keep a register of the vaccine status of workers subject to the authorised vaccine requirement. The Victorian Government has provided an template COVID-19 Vaccination Status Register for the Authorised worker vaccine requirement template or you may implement your own system to show compliance with the Chief Health Officer’s COVID-19 Mandatory Vaccination (Workers) Directions.
The Directions of the Chief Health Officer have been made to ensure any authorised workers (ie church staff whether paid or volunteer acting in a capacity representing the church) who interact with members of the public (whether on site or off site) are vaccinated.
If you have members of staff (paid or unpaid) who will be working from home at all times and not likely to be meeting with anyone off site until these regulations are revoked, then they would not be required to have mandatory vaccination.
Importantly, Baptist Insurance Services have advised that the most current advice from our public liability insurer, CCI, is that provided the Church follows relevant government directives and has a COVID-19 plan in place and follows the plan, they would cover any claim against the Church. If, however, the Church deliberately fails to follow government directives and/or fails to have a COVID-19 plan in place, it is unlikely they would provide indemnity as a subsequent COVID-19 claim could not be said to be “neither expected nor intended from the standpoint of the insured”.
Baptist Insurance Services has also provided updated advice for Churches who are hiring their facilities to external hirers and this advice can be found here
The BUV encourages all churches to be respectful and act in obedience with the law, and with duty of care to all staff, members and attendees. It is important to understand that this is probably a short to medium term issue. We encourage you to remember the guiding principles that Rev Daniel Bullock outlined in his letter to all Pastors in October that:
- Our starting point needs to be a generous theological response focused on protecting the vulnerable, rather than asserting our rights,
- As we engage with this issue, let us maintain our values, especially respect, love and freedom of conscience,
- Respond to the State Government’s Roadmap with the understanding that we will be treated like other community and religious groups, and therefore, not seek special privileges above and beyond what is expected of others,
- Acknowledge that we are still in the midst of a global pandemic and therefore, we may need to endure some short-term restrictions on the journey forward,
- Act in a way that we fulfil our duty of care for those entrusted to our care,
- Present the Baptist church to our society as a community of love and compassion,
- Engage in respectful conversation with one another, seeking to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace (Ephesians 4:3).
Crossway Baptist Church have published a helpful paper that they have agreed to share with other churches which provides their church’s answers to many frequently asked questions Click here for Crossway COVID paper
We will continue to update the BUV Coronavirus Advice Page as the Roadmap is updated once the vaccination status reaches 90% (indicative date 29 November).
Together with National Council of Churches, we will be lodging questions requiring clarification with DHHS – please send any questions you have