Blue card “No Card, No Start”: New Changes To the Blue Card System
On 31 August 2020, changes were made to the Blue Card system which all Blue Card applicants and Blue Card holders should be aware of.
The “No Card, No Start” law
The Blue Card system now states that applicants will be unable to work of volunteer in a position which requires a blue card until their application is approved. Previously, applicants were permitted to begin work which requires a Blue Card whilst their application was being processed.
New Rules for Blue Card Expiring
The new rules also state that if you do not renew your blue card by the expiry date, you will not be permitted to work or volunteer in your role which requires a Blue Card (in other words, you will be subject to the “No Card, No Start” law, and you will be unable to continue that work or volunteer work).
A Requirement to Notify Blue Card About a Change in Your Police Information
This is not necessarily a new requirement, but the process has changed, and new penalties apply. All Blue Card applicants and card holders are now required to notify Blue Card directly in relation to changes in their police information.
Penalty for Failing to Disclose a Change in Police Information
The maximum penalty for failing to report a change in your police information is 100 penalty units, which is $13,345 as of 1 July 2020.
What is “Police Information?”
Police information incudes convictions, and even mere charges for an offence where a person is still innocent until proven otherwise.
Police information also includes a wide range of other situations, including but not limited to:
- some police investigations (before a person is charged);
- being subject to a disqualification order;
- being a respondent in a Child Protection matter generally; and
- becoming subject to reporting obligations under the Child Protection (Offender Reporting and Offender Prohibition Order) Act 2004;
- becoming subject to a child protection offender prohibition order under theChild Protection (Offender Reporting and Offender Prohibition Order) Act 2004.
Blue Card applicants and holders should obtain legal advice immediately on whether a reportable incident has occurred to avoid the possibility of facing hefty fines.
New “Change In Police Information” Form
A new “Change in Police Information” form has been released by the Department. The form must now be submitted directly to the Department instead of your employer, organisation, or education provider.
The form does not require the applicant or Blue Card holder to specify what the change in police information is, since the department already has wide ranging powers to search for any new charges or convictions against an applicant or blue card holder.
Change in Notification Process
As set out above, the “Change in Police Information” Form now must be submitted directly to Blue Card Services instead of your employer, organisation, or education provider.
It is no longer a requirement for employers to notify Blue Card services when they become aware of an employee’s change in police information.
Blue Card Services will then only notify your employer, organisation, or education provider if the change is relevant to the child related employment. If the offence is considered “serious” under the Act, this is likely to occur.
Blue Card applicants and cardholders should obtain advice on what “serious offences” and “disqualifying offences” include under the Act, and the difference between the two.
What if my employment contract has existing reporting requirements?
Existing workplace requirements for employers to report changes in criminal or police histories remain in place, unchanged. For instance, if your employment contract states that you need to report a drink driving charge, that reporting obligation to your employer likely still applies. If you are unsure, you should obtain legal advice on your contractual and common law duties to your employer in that regard.
New Frequency Test
A person may not need a Blue Card if the regulated child-related work is not frequent. If the work involves not more than 7 days of work in a calendar year, you may not need a blue card.
All applicants and Blue Card holders should obtain legal advice on this test since:
- merely 2 hours of work can count as a “day” of work;
- since this rule also applies to volunteers and students doing practical placements; and
- restricted persons and business operators cannotrely on the new “frequency test”.
New “Restricted Person” and “Restricted Employment”
A restricted person is a person who either:
- has been issued a negative notice
- has a suspended blue card
- is a disqualifiedperson
- has been charged with a disqualifying offencethat has not been finalised.
Restricted employment refers to the situations or exemptions that allow a person to work with children without a blue card, such as if they are:
- a volunteer parent
- a volunteer who is under 18
- paid or unpaid staff who work in regulated child-related employment for not more than 7 days in a calendar year
- a consumer at a child-related service outlet where they also carry out work at the outlet.
A child-related service outlet is a place where disability services are provided to children.
Applicants and Blue Card holders should obtain legal advice immediately if there has been a change in their police history, since substantial penalties apply to restricted persons continuing with restricted employment (see below).
Maximum fines of up to $66,725 (500 Penalty Units as of 1 July 2020)
If you are a restricted person, and continue working or volunteering in restricted employment, you could face fines of up to 500 penalty units ($66,725 as of 1 July 2020).
Many other new offences and penalties have also been introduced. Anyone who has had a change in their police history and who holds a blue card (or who is applying for a blue card) should obtain legal advice immediately, even if they are unsure as to whether a requisite event has occurred.
Claims of “Faster” Approval Times
Previously, many clients have reported to Potts Lawyers that their applications took months to be processed. In some cases, Blue Card holders received show cause letters from the Department once a change in police history was reported, and some of those matters took years for the Department to resolve.
In response to the delays experienced by many, the Blue Card application and renewal process is now fully online. The department claims that this will lead to faster approval times for most applicants.
It is too early to ascertain whether this promise will be fulfilled. The supposed ‘streamlined process’ by the department is too new, and so it may take months or even years before we have a clear indication of whether this new process will lead to shorter wait times for applicants and card holders.
If your application, renewal, or dispute in relation to your Blue Card has been unreasonably delayed by Blue Card Services, you should contact Potts Lawyers so that efforts can be made to speed up the process, where possible.
Potts Lawyers is highly experienced in assisting both Blue Card holders and applicants in a wide range of matters.
Each person’s circumstances are unique, and each case depends upon the facts. Potts Lawyers recognises that for many individuals, a Blue Card is required for a person’s livelihood, and may be their only source of income.
This article is merely a brief overview and the many changes implemented to Blue Card starting 31 August 2020, and is not an exhaustive list of all the changes. To obtain accurate advice which is tailored to your specific situation, you should obtain legal advice.
In circumstances where a person has (or thinks they might have) a change in their police information, they should seek legal advice immediately and on an urgent basis to avoid the possibility of large fines.
In order to have your interests protected to the fullest extent possible with respect to your Blue Card, call Potts Lawyers for a free consultation today.