News Article

latest news in employment law

Want to mandate vaccinations for your workplace?

Published 14 Dec 2021

Since December 3rd 2021 the old COVID-19 alert level system has been replaced by the new COVID-19 Protection Framework (PF), anecdotally referred to as the "Traffic Light" system.

The list of industry sectors where COVID-19 vaccinations are required is growing, and with the new PF requirements the list is now;

  • Border and managed isolation and quarantine workers
  • Health and disability workers
  • Prison workers
  • Education sector workers
  • Food and drink services (excluding businesses operating solely as takeaways), events, close proximity businesses and indoor exercise facilities like gyms
  • On-site tertiary education (only at the Red level of the COVID-19 Protection Framework)
  • New Zealand Police (sworn members, recruits and authorised officers)
  • New Zealand Defence Force (Armed Forces and civilian staff).

If your business does not fall under a particular vaccination mandate you also potentially have the right now to self-impose a staff vaccination requirement based on Health & Safety risk.

The Government has provided recommended guidelines in the form of a 'tool' to demonstrate what is considered reasonable grounds to justify the implementation of a vaccination requirement for businesses. Although still a work in progress currently it looks like this:

They make it clear this does not necessarily over-rule your own Health & Safety risk assessments, but simplistically, if you can tick three of the four categories of higher risk, decisions to implement your own vaccine requirement will be justified.

Another scenario that we're seeing commonly is that businesses are being required by their customers, contractors or suppliers that they only provide or engage with fully vaccinated staff. This essentially puts the business into a potential redundancy scenario; you can no longer provide unvaccinated staff with work. In this case the usual change management process should be adopted.

While the above cases may legitimately justify a workplace requirement, there is still a process of implementation and potential termination to be undertaken. Good faith and fair process have to be recognised always.

The Government have also amended the Employment Relations Act to include the following;

  • The employer must allow an employee reasonable paid time off to become vaccinated.
  • The employer must provide the greater of; 4 weeks paid (written) notice of termination OR paid notice period in the Employment Agreement
  • The employer must (if reasonably possible) revoke the termination if the employee becomes vaccinated during the notice period, or alternative roles become available.

Be aware, none of this negates the employee's ability to raise personal grievance, so always ensure fair process is followed. If you are unsure please phone us prior to taking action.