Go to top of page

COVID-19 vaccination policy for employees and non-employees FAQs

On this page

Why have the vaccination requirements changed?

Since late 2021, education and early childhood settings became subject to mandatory vaccination requirements by the State Coordinator under the Emergency Management Act.

The department has been complying with these mandatory requirements.

The situation is now different to late 2021 in that the vast majority of the workforce is vaccinated and the Omicron COVID-19 variant is less severe than the Delta strain, which was prevalent when the Direction was put in place.

As of 12.01am 31 March 2022, the State Coordinator revoked the Emergency Management Act Direction requiring vaccination to work in an education or early childhood setting.

The department issued an interim managerial direction and undertook a consultation process for COVID-19 vaccination policies for employees and non-employees.

The following policies have now been approved and adopted by the department:

Who is covered by these policies?

The COVID-19 vaccination policy for employees applies to an employee working in a Department for Education workplace, or working in or providing services in a scheme, undertaking or program of the department.

Employee means any person employed by the Chief Executive of the Department for Education (or delegate).

The COVID-19 vaccination for non-employees applies to all non-employees, including volunteers, educators, care providers, contractors, consultants and other service providers who:

  • engage in work or perform duties in services operated by the department;
  • engage in work or perform duties at any of the department’s education and early childhood settings (“workplaces” or “sites”); or
  • work in or provide services in a scheme, undertaking or program of the Department (“undertakings”), including bus transport services.

Who is not covered by these policies?

These policies do not apply to:

  • a parent attending an education and early childhood setting in their capacity as a parent
  • a person responding to an emergency or urgent maintenance task, for example, responding to a lift breakdown or a fire
  • a person delivering goods to or removing items (including rubbish) from the workplace
  • a person engaging in work or performing duties on a construction site for a school or preschool where the provision of education or care has not commenced at the site or the construction area is generally inaccessible from the school or preschool and there is a separate means of access to the construction site.

What do the policies require?

These policies sets out the expectations in relation to vaccination requirements.

To engage in work or perform duties in a Department for Education workplace, or in a departmental scheme, undertaking or program, employees and non-employees must:

  • Have up to date vaccination status in accordance with the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) guidelines, which currently includes a third dose of an Approved Vaccine from 3 months and no later than 6 months after receiving the second dose, or
  • Have had COVID-19 and have deferred receipt of their next dose of vaccination for the period as defined by ATAGI (currently up to 4 months)
  • Have a medical exemption fora medical condition for which there is a Recognised Contraindication in relation to COVID-19 vaccination as certified by a duly qualified medical practitioner, or
  • Comply with the conditions outlined for unvaccinated employees.

Approved Vaccine means a vaccine that have been provisionally registered or registered for use in Australia by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), these include AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna and Novavax.

Is there any change for employees and non-employees who have up-to-date vaccination status?

No, these people can continue working, where they have:

  • received the required number of doses of an Approved Vaccine in accordance with the ATAGI guidelines, which currently includes a third dose of an Approved Vaccine from 3 months and no later than 6 months after receiving the second dose; and
  • have had their vaccination evidence sighted by the site manager or delegate.

This includes performing services or duties in a Department for Education workplace, or in a departmental scheme, undertaking or program.

Approved Vaccine means a vaccine that has that have been provisionally registered or registered for use in Australia by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), these include AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna and Novavax.

What if the employee or non-employee has not received the required number of doses of vaccine?

These people will not have up-to-date vaccination status and therefore will be considered to be ‘unvaccinated’ for the purposes of this policy.  Unvaccinated employees and non-employees will not be able to work in higher risk settings and/or will have to comply with the conditions outlined for unvaccinated employees and non-employees, unless they:

  • Have a medical exemption, namely they have:
    • had COVID-19 and have deferred receipt of their next dose of vaccination for the period as defined by ATAGI, or
    • a medical condition for which there is a Recognised Contraindication in relation to COVID-19 vaccination as certified by a duly qualified medical practitioner.

Do vaccinated employees and non-employees need to have had a booster?

The policies require employees and non-employees to maintain up-to-date vaccination against COVID-19, with an Approved Vaccine in accordance with the ATAGI guidelines.  These guidelines currently include a third dose (or booster) of an Approved Vaccine from 3 months and no later than 6 months after receiving the second dose.

Approved Vaccine means a vaccine that have been provisionally registered or registered for use in Australia by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), these include AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna and Novavax.

It is noted that employees and non-employees must be considered up-to-date with their vaccination (or have a medical exemption from being vaccinated) to be able to work in a higher-risk setting.

What are the requirements for employee disclosing vaccination details?

The department requires all employees to disclose their vaccination status in the Employee Information Kiosk (EIK) by recording the date of their vaccination doses. Refer to the COVID-19 section on the EIK (staff login required).

Employees are required to keep this information up to date at all times.

The department requires that managers sight the vaccination evidence of all employees under their responsibility, and record that they have sighted appropriate evidence via the HR Management System (HRS).

Copies of the evidence is not required to be held locally. However, employees may be required to produce evidence of their vaccination status at any time.

What are the requirements for non-employees disclosing vaccination details?

The department requires that managers sight the vaccination evidence of all non-employees under their responsibility, and record that they have sighted appropriate evidence.

What can be provided as evidence by employees and non-employees of being up to date with their vaccinations?

Evidence of being up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations can be provided in the following ways:

What if an employee or non-employee has not disclosed their vaccination status or provided the required evidence?

Individuals who do not provide evidence of their vaccination status on request or who are unvaccinated and refuse to comply with the reasonable safety measures will be directed offsite and managed appropriately.

Leaders can seek support via the COVID Hotline.

In what circumstances is an individual considered medically exempt from being vaccinated?

An individual can be considered medical exempt from vaccination requirements, and therefore not subject to the requirements for unvaccinated employees under this policy, where they have:

  • had COVID-19 and have deferred receipt of their next dose of vaccination for the period as defined by ATAGI, or
  • a medical condition for which there is a Recognised Contraindication in relation to COVID-19 vaccination as certified by a duly qualified medical practitioner.

Details of each are set out below.

When an individual has contracted COVID 19 and deferred their vaccination

An individual who has contracted COVID-19 can defer their next dose of vaccination for the period defined by ATAGI. Currently this deferral period is up to 4 months after the onset of the COVID-19 infection. This will be considered as a medical exemption under the policy.

These people will be able to engage in work or perform duties in a Department for Education workplace.

Evidence of the date of contracting COVID-19 must be sighted by the site leader, manager or delegate.

Site leaders and managers should diarise to follow up with the employee before the expiry of their deferral to discuss the intentions of the individual to either:

  • comply with the current departmental policy in relation to COVID-19 vaccinations
  • provide a further medical exemption
  • be subject to the requirements for unvaccinated employees and non-employees.

When an individual has a medical condition for which there is a Recognised Contraindication

An individual can be considered medically exempt from vaccination requirements, and therefore not subject to the requirements for unvaccinated employees and non-employees under these policies, where they have a medical condition for which there is a Recognised Contraindication in relation to COVID-19 vaccination as certified by a duly qualified medical practitioner.

A Recognised Contraindication means a reaction to an Approved Vaccine that is recognised by the manufacturer of that vaccine. Further information can be found via Services Australia.

In these circumstances the individual will be required to obtain a medical certificate or letter from a legally qualified medical practitioner. Not every health professional can grant a medical exemption. Health professionals who can grant an exemption are:

  • general practice registrars on an approved 3GA training placement
  • paediatricians
  • public health physicians
  • infectious disease physicians
  • clinical immunologists
  • GPs who meet certain criteria. Further information can be found via Services Australia.

Site leaders or managers must sight the medical exemption and confirm in HRS for employees.

Employees with a medical exemption can disclose their vaccination status as “medical reason” for the period of the exemption on EIK.

Can unvaccinated employees return to the workplace?

Unvaccinated employees are now able to return to the workplace if they comply with the additional safety measures outlined for unvaccinated employees.

These employees should contact their site manager and discuss their return. In the event that the individual’s role has been back-filled they will be returned to the site to perform alternate duties, above headcount for the period of the backfilling arrangement, as determined by the site leader.

Should there be a need for support in a nearby site, they will be deployed as needed. This can be managed locally between relevant leaders.

In the event that an unvaccinated employee returns before the end of their approved leave booking, the relevant dates are to be cancelled via the normal process. See delete or withdraw leave request cancel leave booking quick reference guide (PDF 504.0KB) (staff login required) for instructions.

Unvaccinated people will not be permitted to work in certain settings or situations that are considered higher-risk due to the vulnerability of the students in these settings. See below for further details.

Can unvaccinated allied health professionals come back to work with the department?

The Emergency Management (COVID-19) (Healthcare Setting Workers Vaccination) Direction by the State Coordinator is still in place and includes vaccination requirements for healthcare professionals, including those that work for, and in, department sites.

Schools and preschools are considered a healthcare setting under the Direction as they are settings where the following services are provided by allied and scientific professionals in person to another person:

  • occupational therapy
  • psychology
  • speech pathology.

Under the Healthcare Setting Direction, where the setting in which services are provided by allied health professionals is predominately used for another purpose (such as a school or preschool), the vaccination requirements are limited to the individual allied health professional providing the services only.

The vaccination requirements under the Healthcare Setting Direction required a first dose of an approved vaccine to be received by 8 November 2021 and a 2nd and 3rd dose received within the approved intervals after that. 

This means that to meet the requirements under the Healthcare Setting Direction, allied health staff should, in the main, have had their 3rd dose of vaccination by now (or have an endorsed medical exemption from being vaccinated by the Chief Public Health Officer) to be able to provide allied health services to schools and preschools.

If managers have an employee that has not received 3 doses of an approved vaccine and believes they should be able to return to work, please contact the COVID Hotline for advice.

What are the requirements for unvaccinated employees and non-employees?

While the department strongly encourages all employees and non-employees to maintain up-to-date vaccination, it recognises that some individuals will choose not to.

Unvaccinated employees and non-employees must comply with the following reasonable additional safety measures to reduce risk in the workplace:

  • Undertake a rapid antigen test each morning at home, and return a negative result* in order to attend for work; and
  • Wear a surgical face mask while indoors, at all times.

*If an individual returns a negative test but has symptoms of COVID-19 or is unwell they are to stay at home in accordance with health advice.

What if the setting or site is considered to be higher-risk?

Employees and non-employees who do not have up to date vaccinations or are unvaccinated will not be permitted to work in certain settings or situations that are considered higher-risk due to the vulnerability of the students in these settings. These include:

  • Aboriginal and Anangu Schools
  • special schools
  • disability units
  • hospital schools
  • anyone working 1:1 with students with a medical vulnerability in a mainstream setting.

Medical vulnerability in this context means where a student has a particular vulnerability to COVID-19 as identified in a care plan (either directly, or by reference to related issues such as being immunocompromised).

What if employees do not have up-to-date vaccination status and their role is in a higher-risk setting?

If at any time, an employee who works in a higher-risk setting does not have up-to-date vaccination against COVID-19, due to a Recognised Contraindication they are able to continue working at a higher-risk setting.

If at any time, an employee who works in a higher-risk setting, has chosen not to have up-to-date vaccination against COVID-19, the department will redeploy the employee where practicable.

Leaders can seek support to manage these situations via the COVID Hotline.

Where do unvaccinated employees and non-employees obtain masks and RAT tests?

RATs and surgical masks will be supplied by the department for all employees of the Department, including central staff, available locally.

RATs and surgical masks can also be provided to non-employees where needed.

What if an unvaccinated employee or non-employee cannot wear a mask?

Where an unvaccinated individual is not able to wear a surgical mask due to a disability or medical condition, they will be granted an exemption from this requirement on the basis of a medical certificate issued by a duly qualified medical practitioner.

This medical certificate must be sighted by the site manager and must provide enough information to satisfy the manager that the exemption is applicable, for example the medical certificate must outline the medical condition which prevents the wearing of a mask.

Leaders can seek support to manage these situations via the COVID Hotline.

What if an unvaccinated employee or non-employee refuses to wear a mask?

An unvaccinated employee will be directed off site by the site manager if they:

  • refuse to wear a mask; and
  • have not provided a medical certificate issued by a duly qualified medical practitioner; and/or
  • have not been granted a medical exemption.

Employees who are unvaccinated and refuse to comply with the reasonable safety measures will be managed appropriately.

Do unvaccinated employees and non-employees need to report negative RAT results or keep evidence of these?

The department is operating on a trust basis. Unvaccinated employees and non-employees are expected to do the right thing.

If any employee or non-employee, vaccinated or not, attends work and appears symptomatic they are to be sent home.

Employees are reminded that providing false information under a policy is considered a breach of the Code of Ethics and will be managed accordingly.

What should an unvaccinated individual do if they return a positive RAT result?

An unvaccinated employee or non-employee should:

  • not attend a Department for Education workplace, or provide services in a departmental scheme, undertaking or program;
  • notify their manager as soon as possible of the positive RAT result;
  • follow normal site based and departmental COVID-19 reporting requirements; and
  • follow the relevant SA Health guidelines for returning a positive RAT result.

What if an unvaccinated employee is an online tutor, do they need to follow the RAT and mask requirements?

When performing duties as an online tutor, employees are not required to take a RAT daily or wear a mask indoors at all times. However, if they also perform duties in a Department for Education workplace, they will be required to follow the requirements when attending the workplace.

Will unvaccinated employees and non-employees be able to interact with other staff?

Yes. There are no restrictions on interaction with other staff. Unvaccinated people will be required to RAT daily and wear masks indoors at all times, unless exempt.

All staff are reminded to maintain social distancing regardless of their vaccination status.

What if a parent requests that their child is not taught by an unvaccinated employee?

Sites determine who teaches which class.

Parents should be advised that where unvaccinated employees have returned to work, to protect the safety of staff and student health and wellbeing they are required to:

  • take a RAT every morning and will only be able to attend work on a negative result; and
  • wear masks at all times while indoors.

For all employees and students/children the department still has a number of other COVID safe measures in our schools and preschools to keep students and staff as safe as possible, including mask wearing, use of sanitiser, encouraging people not to attend while sick.

The department continues to work very closely with SA Health to get these settings right. And as always, will adjust them if the health advice changes.

Can unvaccinated teachers and ancillary staff now register for work with the department?

Unvaccinated people can now apply to be on the Employable Teacher (ETR) and Ancillary Staff (EAR) Registers.

Unvaccinated applicants who had an ETR or EAR application de-activated do not need to complete a full application. They can reactivate their former authority to work by:

  1. Logging into their EduJobs profile
  2. Accessing their application under the ‘Current Applications’ tab, where there will be a drop down box that allows them to ‘Edit and Resubmit’.
  3. Clicking on the ‘Next’ buttons at the bottom of each page through to the end of the application and click the ‘Submit’ button’.

COVID-19 (coronavirus) Team

Emaileducation.covidcoordination [at] sa.gov.au