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Can I stand down staff who attend antilockdown or similar protests

Published 04 Oct 2021

Auckland employers are faced with the some tough decisions this Monday as some staff attended anti-lockdown and anti-vaccine protests around the city this weekend. Other parts of New Zealand also saw protest, but yet to be determined if it breached the alert level 2 restrictions.

One of the biggest events were the protests by Destiny Church leader, Brian Tamaki. It is estimated 2000 attendees breached lockdown rules in Auckland on the 2nd of October while under alert level 3 to protest in Auckland's Domain against the COVID-19 lockdown and vaccines.

Auckland's Mayor labelled Mr Tamaki as an "Idiot", leading epidemiologist Michael Baker said it was a high-risk activity during this time and the Government now confirming it was an "Illegal protest", employers are now faced with challenges about relevant and appropriate repercussions for staff who attended this and other illegal events.

At the very least people participating in the protest have willingly and knowingly acted against the Government's public health response instructions, presenting a very real risk in their workplaces of having contracted COVID-19.

Some attendees are also very polarised and proud of their actions and then continue to promulgate and advocate their stance on social media platforms. This potentially also brings their employer into disrepute and could cause very difficult questions to be asked by clients and suppliers of the firm alike, particularly so if the company is one who works in an industry subject to extra Governmental Health Orders.

It's always a case by case scenario in dealing with issues like this, there is no one size fits all approach in these instances and all factors need to be considered and evaluated on their merits.

When an employer requests an employee to undertake a medical test they would normally be expected to fund such a request and any time-off while waiting for results. However, in this case, this is through the direct and deliberate actions of the employee going against Governmental orders and the employer would be entirely justified in withholding payment or seeking agreement if staff wanted to use their annual leave entitlement to fund the time off.

As usual, any disciplinary measures would have to be justifiably appropriate for the sanction in mind. For example if you seek to terminate someone’s employment for this you would be required to demonstrate how exactly their actions have caused detriment to the business and follow due process.

A concessionary stance could also be to apply for the STAP payment from MSD if your business is eligible to receive it.
For more information on the STAP payment please see this web page: