On Tues 23.11.21, the President of the Victorian Bar, sent an email to members advising them of a new vaccination mandate applicable in Victoria. From this coming Friday (26.11.21) most workers, including the self-employed, must work from their ordinary residences, unless fully vaccinated. There is an exception for work in connection with proceedings in a court, where that work cannot be done from their ordinary places of residence: clause 9(8). The full email appears below. I note the renegade Senators propose an amendment to the Federal anti-discrimination legislation, to prevent discrimination on the basis of Covid vaccination – thus overriding the State Directions (and, personally, I have some sympathy for that view).

 


 

COVID-19 Mandatory Vaccination (Workers) Directions (No 8)

New Directions

Victoria’s Acting Chief Health Officer has given a further set of directions pursuant to s. 200(1)(d) of the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 (Vic) concerning mandatory vaccination for certain workers: COVID-19 Mandatory Vaccination (Workers) Directions (No 8).

Broadly, the Directions provide that specified workers must work from their ordinary places of residence unless they are fully vaccinated by 26 November 2021: clause (6)(1) and Schedule 1, Column 2.

The Directions apply to specified self-employed workers but not if they work in connection with proceedings in a court, where that work cannot be done from their ordinary places of residence: clause 9(8). ‘Court’ is defined to mean the Supreme Court, the County Court, the Magistrates’ Court, the Children’s Court and any Federal Court: clause 11(2).

Access to premises – the Bar and BCL’s position

The Bar Office and BCL have been contacted by members about the issue of vaccination in relation to access to chambers and the Bar’s facilities more generally. Having considered the issue, with the Bar Council’s support, the Bar Office and BCL provide the following information for members.

As noted above, people who are working in connection with proceedings in a court are explicitly excluded from the operation of the Directions if the work cannot be done from their ordinary place of residence. Where members of counsel are unvaccinated, should they seek to attend chambers, they will have to satisfy themselves that relevant work cannot be done from home in order to comply with the Directions.

As to individual chambers leased by members, BCL will not impose a requirement that members be vaccinated as a condition of occupation or attendance in chambers. Doing so would impose a restriction on practise not found in the Directions and may affect members’ ability to represent clients in court.

In respect of premises that are occupied by BCL and the Bar Office, the position is different. The The Directions apply to BCL and Victorian Bar staff. Those employees must be fully vaccinated by 26 November 2021. The CEO of BCL and the Executive Director of the Victorian Bar have determined that, in respect of premises occupied by those entities, all staff and visitors must be vaccinated before being granted entry. This position applies to BCL’s head office at 200 Queen Street, the Bar Office on Level 5 of Owen Dixon Chambers East, the Neil McPhee Room, meeting rooms and the Bar Library on Level 1 of Owen Dixon Chambers East, and the Mediation Centre on Levels 1 and 3 of Douglas Menzies Chambers. The Essoign Club also has a requirement that members and guests must be vaccinated as a condition of entry.

Familiarising yourself with the Directions and BCL’s response

This information is provided for your assistance, but of course the application of the relevant Directions to each particular circumstance is a matter of legal interpretation. Barristers are responsible for reading them and forming their own conclusions about their obligations as self-employed people.

You can find the full text of the Directions here.

Members are encouraged to read the full text of the Directions and ensure that they comply with them.

Finally, BCL has gathered material relevant to its COVID-19 response here.

Róisín Annesley QC
President

[Tax Month – November 2021Previous 2021] 23.11.21

 

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