Can ECEC providers exclude parents who are unvaccinated from attending ECEC?
The United Workers Union (UWU), which represents the interests of a number of those employed in the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector, is on record as being “unashamedly pro-vaccination”, with UWU Early Education Director Helen Gibbons saying a call for mandated vaccination for parents accessing ECEC should also be headed.
Quoted in an article which appeared in The Age, Ms Gibbon’s comments were part of a broader piece which outlined that a number of ECEC providers are seeking legal advice on whether the children of those families who elect to, or who are unable to, receive the COVID-19 vaccine can be excluded from care, in a bid to protect educators and other families when restrictions ease.
Current options that providers are considering include not allowing parents inside a centre during pick up and drop off, ruling that only someone vaccinated could drop children off, or excluding unvaccinated parents and their children completely.
Ms Gibbons said that any vaccine mandates need to be backed by credible advice from health experts and should these experts deem it necessary for parents to also be vaccinated “then (the ECEC sector) should take note of that”.
State of play for ECEC employees
IN NSW, Victoria and the Northern Territory, mandated vaccination rules are in place for those who are employed in the ECEC sector with roles that are in direct contact with children, with Goodstart Early Learning also moving to ensure all 15,000 of its staff have the vaccine under mandated measures.
The Victorian Government’s roadmap for reopening notes that when double-dose vaccination levels for the general population reach between 70 and 80 per cent, ECEC will be available only to the children of those fully vaccinated, or other essential workers.
Australian Community Children’s Services (ACCS) National Convenor Prue Warrilow described the exclusion of children of those who are unvaccinated as “really challenging” and an issue about which “there’s no right or wrong”.
Current Fair Work Ombudsman advice around vaccine mandates suggests mandated vaccination is a reasonable measure for employees in ECEC, however Ms Warrilow said it was hard to know if this could be extended to parents.
“It would be great if the government gave some very clear direction, but they haven’t done it for any other sector in terms of the wider stakeholder group, only the employees,” she added.
Vaccination exclusion could leave children vulnerable, ECA says
Early Childhood Australia (ECA) CEO Sam Page told the paper that any policies relating to the exclusion of unvaccinated families needed to consider the impact on vulnerable children, saying “I would hate to think that we were going to lock some vulnerable children out of preschool programs because their parents genuinely haven’t had access to a vaccination.”
Despite this perspective, Ms Page said that as community levels of vaccination rise, such policies “become realistic,” noting that more needs to be done to educate ECEC staff and families about vaccination, encouraging them to accept the vaccination before going down the route of mandating it.
To access the original coverage of this story please see here.