MP wants rapid testing option for employees, as an alternative to standing them down

Gippsland South MLA Danny O'Brien said he had heard from one electrical business that had two-thirds of its staff refusing to vaccinate against COVID-19.

A local MP wants the state government to permit rapid testing for employees who are not vaccinated, as an alternative to standing them down.

From tomorrow, to be able to work onsite at a work premises, authorised workers must be able to provide evidence to their employer that they have received at least their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, have a booking to receive their first dose by October 22, or have a medical exemption evidenced by an authorised medical practitioner.

This means that from October 22 onwards, authorised workers will need to have received at least their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to attend work, and from November 26, must provide evidence they have received their second dose.

Speaking in Parliament on Wednesday, Gippsland South MLA Danny O’Brien said more support was needed for small business and clearer information for employers and employees about the consequences of the state government’s mandatory vaccination requirement for authorised workers.

“I hold great concern for the impact of these directions on our local community, in particular on local businesses and their ability to keep their businesses staffed,” Mr O’Brien said.

“There is no doubt it has also created great stress for employers and workers,” Mr O’Brien said.

Mr O’Brien said in the past two weeks he had been inundated by people across a wide range of industries who are facing “significant uncertainty” because of an inability to backfill for unvaccinated workers as a direct result of the mandates.

“A local farmer contacted my office this week expressing her devastation at the prospect of being forced to lose great employees because of these mandates,” Mr O’Brien said.

“I’ve heard from one electrical business that has two-thirds of its staff refusing a vaccine.

“Businesses are also incredibly concerned about the legal ramifications come Friday should they have to make decisions around unvaccinated workers.

Mr O’Brien said the government had not provided clarity to businesses worried about privacy, unfair dismissal and what unvaccinated workers were entitled to receive.

He said small businesses felt extremely vulnerable to legal action, which was another source of stress.

“Alternatives like rapid testing must be considered, particularly in regions where there are no localised cases of COVID and very high rates of vaccination,” Mr O’Brien said.

“While I am encouraging all of my constituents to get vaccinated, the reality is that not everyone wants to.

“I support the mandating of vaccines for aged-care and healthcare workers because they are working with vulnerable people.

“But I do not support the wider mandate.

“There was already a critical shortage of workers in many industries, including education, childcare, hospitality and agriculture, and these mandates will only exacerbate these issues by forcing business and providers to sack staff who have not been vaccinated.”

Mr O’Brien said an inability to fill these vacancies in the immediate future would result in a “significant impact” on the wider community.

“Rapid testing is already being used in the health and transport sectors to reduce transmission risk and there is certainly a case to be made for how it could be used to ensure these mandates don’t result in businesses and essential services across our community being forced to close,” he said.