On Friday 1st October, Premier Daniel Andrews announced that all workers – in Melbourne and regional Victoria – on the Authorised Worker list who cannot work at home will require their first COVID-19 vaccine dose by Friday, 15 October. From 26 November 2021, the requirement will increase to having had two doses or a medical exception.
At this stage, the Chief Health Officer has not updated the Directions to include all workers – but in the Premier’s press release states “The 15 October deadline will not apply to workers who already have existing requirements under CHO directions – groups like construction, freight, healthcare, aged care and education will still have to comply with previous advice.”
As is consistent with all previous advice, the Chief Health Officer Directions will not be updated until the time that the directions are enforced – so we would expect the Directions to be updated by Friday 15th October.
- faith leaders broadcasting services and ceremonies at places of worship, with the minimum number of people required for the broadcast to occur (no more than 5 people); or
- funerary or mortuary services or related activities; or
- marriage celebrant only if one or both of the two persons being married are at the end of life, or will be deported from Australia unless the marriage takes place;
- care services for people with particular needs because of homelessness, family violence, age, infirmity, disability, illness or a chronic health condition or other essential support services;
- essential infrastructure and essential services that are required to maintain or protect human health, safety and wellbeing (whether provided by a public or private undertaking)
allied health professionals providing mental health services in community settings by telehealth, or by face-to-face (but only for urgent care where telehealth is not clinically appropriate)
drug and alcohol services; or
- a childcare, early learning centre, kindergarten, preschool or family day care provider;
Until the Directions are released, some of the detail may be unclear but basically, in our limited understanding of this new ruling, we believe the intent of the Directions will be 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.
Until the Directions are released, we will not be able to confirm this fully.
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”.
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 don’t know how long this will last, but it is likely that this will not be a permanent issue. We encourage you to remember the guiding principles that Rev Daniel Bullock outlined in his letter to all Pastors recently:
- 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 more information becomes available.
Together with National Council of Churches, we will be lodging questions requiring clarification with DHHS – please send any questions you have