Current and prospective blue card holders need to be aware of major changes to the blue card system in Queensland that take effect from 31st August 2020.

The new requirements will affect current and future blue card holders. Anyone intending to work in August or September this year in a regulated position that requires a blue card should take immediate steps to apply for or renew their card if it is shortly due to expire.

“No card, No start”

Until now, applicants have been free to apply for a blue card and start work immediately, prior to their blue card being approved or issued. Applicants could continue working unless the blue card application was denied. This will no longer be the case from 31st August.

Applicants will be prohibited from working in a regulated position until they have a blue card approval. The Queensland Government suggests allowing at least 28 days for this process. There are no exceptions to the new rules and therefore any person who does not already have a blue card and is expecting to start work in the coming weeks should immediately lodge their application.

What if I have already submitted my blue card application?

Those who have already submitted an application for a blue card prior to 31st August can continue working while their application is being assessed.

What about existing blue card holders?

 
The “no card, no start” provisions will also affect the renewal process from 31st August 2020. Anyone who has a blue card due to expire after 31st August must apply for renewal before the expiry date, and can continue to work. If the renewal application is not lodged before the expiry date, the renewal applicant will be unable to work until a new card is issued.

Changes to reporting obligations

The new laws will require blue card holders to immediately report any changes in their “police information” directly to the Queensland Government. “Police information” includes any offence that you have been charged or convicted of. The Queensland Government will make the decision as to whether the offence is a disqualifying one.

From 31st August, submitting a change in information form to the Government will be your own responsibility as a card holder rather than the employer’s responsibility (as is currently the case). If your information does change, you will only need to tell your employer that you have notified the Government of a change but you will not be required to give specific details of the change of information to your employer, unless you have a workplace obligation to do so, such as a workplace policy.

The maximum penalty for failing to report a change in police information is $13,345.

Changes to exemptions and “restricted employment”

 
There will also be stricter requirements for people who rely on blue card exemptions to work or volunteer with children, such as a parent who volunteers as a coach of their child’s sporting team. This is intended to prevent people who might have otherwise committed a disqualifying offence from being able to rely on an exemption.
 
The new laws will introduce the terms “restricted person” and “restricted employment”. From 31st August, any position that an exemption could previously be obtained for will be considered “restricted employment” and cannot be performed by a “restricted person”, which is defined as anyone that:
  • has been issued a negative notice;
  • has a suspended blue card;
  • is a disqualified person; or
  • has been charged with a disqualifying offence that has not been finalised.
 
A full list of disqualifying offences can be found here.
 
Significant penalties will apply to restricted persons who work or volunteer in restricted employment from 31st August 2020, with a maximum penalty of $66,725 or 5 years imprisonment. Employers can also be fined up to $26,690 or face 2 years imprisonment if they knowingly employ a restricted person, or should reasonably have known that the person was a restricted person.

Changes to exemption cards for police officers and teachers

 
Currently, police officers and teachers can hold exemption cards that do not expire. However, after the new changes come into effect at the end of the month, all existing exemption cards will now have an expiry date, with that date being the earliest of either 31st August, 2023 or the date printed on the card. Moving forward, all new exemption cards will be valid for 3 years only.

Frequency test exemption

 
A new exemption to obtaining a blue card will be created for anyone who does not perform more than 7 days of regulated work in a single year. This exemption is intended to facilitate occasional work with children. It is important to note that any period of work that is less than full time, such as a single hour, will count as 1 day of work and this exemption cannot be used at all if you operate a regulated ‘child-related’ business.
 
These much-awaited changes to the blue card system are designed to help ensure the safety of Queensland children. It is particularly important for volunteer organisations, sporting clubs, schools and workplaces to ensure they understand the new requirements and are making the necessary arrangements to ensure compliance when they take effect at the end of this month.

If you are unsure of your obligations under the new requirements or need assistance completing your application form, you can contact Blue Card Services. For employers concerned as to your obligations under the new laws or for advice in regards to implementing workplace policies dealing with reporting obligations by your employees, we recommend that you seek urgent legal advice to avoid the substantial penalties that will soon apply.