Following the Parliament’s passing of the Privacy Amendment (Public Health Contact Information) Bill 2020, which underpins privacy protection behind the COVIDSafe app, an employer could face up to five years’ jail time and fines of $63,000 for requiring an employee to download and use the app as a condition of employment.
“Requiring a person to download, use or consent to upload COVID app data is an offence under this bill and carries a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment or 300 penalty units, or both. This measure provides strong incentives against imposing requirements relating to the download and use of COVIDSafe,” the explanatory memorandum to the bill reads.
An employer is also barred from taking adverse action against an employee or prospective employee if they refuse to use the app.
Commenting on the bill’s passage, the Fair Work Commission explained that an employer will also contravene the general protections provisions of the Fair Work Act 2009 if it takes adverse action against an employee or prospective employee for not downloading or using the app.
Other aspects of the legislation include a direction preventing retailers from refusing a person entry to their premises on the ground that the person has not installed or is not using COVIDSafe.
The COVIDSafe app has drawn some criticism from the public over its perceived breach of privacy and its questionable effectiveness.
The government is insisting, however, that the app is a key part of Australia’s recovery from the coronavirus lockdown measures, as it allows authorities to make quick contact with anyone who may have been exposed to the virus.
At the moment, it is believed more than 5.7 million people have downloaded the software but authorities are urging for more.
“The only way the disease detectives can really use the COVIDSafe app is if it is on the phone of the person who is diagnosed with COVID. If it’s not on their phone, COVIDSafe can’t be used,” deputy chief medical officer Nick Coatsworth has said.