COVID-19 vaccinations and your workers: update

The Government has announced new legislation to guide decisions on what work needs vaccination.

What’s new?

The Government has announced new legislation to guide decisions on what work needs vaccination.

To align with the recently announced COVID-19 Protection Framework, the Government will mandate vaccinations for workers at businesses where customers need to show COVID-19 Vaccination Certificates, such as hospitality and close-contact businesses. The Government is continuing to work with business and unions on when this mandate will come into effect, which will likely be by the end of November.

For businesses where a Government vaccine mandate is not in place, the law will include a risk assessment process for employers to follow when deciding whether they can require vaccination for different types of work. This will cover factors like who workers interact with during their work days and how close that contact is, as well as ensuring our critical infrastructure and lifeline utilities can continue even if there has been exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace. This risk assessment will build on guidance already provided by WorkSafe.

How to decide what work requires a vaccinated employee(external link) – WorkSafe

The legislation will also include provisions for paid time off for employees to get vaccinated, helping raise workplace vaccination rates.

If an employee chooses not to get vaccinated for work that requires it, employment law will still apply. Employees and employers must continue to deal in good faith. Employers must still consider all reasonable alternatives, such as finding other work within the business that does not require vaccination.

The law change will introduce four weeks’ paid notice for any employee who has their job terminated because they are not vaccinated, and whose job requires it.

The legislation is expected to come into effect in December and further guidance will be published before then.

The business benefits of vaccination

COVID-19 has created huge challenges for business owners.

As a business owner you know that a community resurgence of COVID-19 risks more disruption and economic uncertainty.

As the COVID-19 vaccine rolls out, and more people are vaccinated, the chances of community transmission is likely to lessen.

Start the conversation now

Our vaccination rates are increasing every day and are the key to keeping workplaces safe. These new rules may mean changes in your workplace. Start engaging with your employees now about the risks of COVID-19 in your workplace and whether vaccinations may be required.

While the proposed legislation is not in effect, you can start assessing whether vaccination is required in your workplace using the guidance provided by WorkSafe. Because this is a health and safety risk assessment, employers will have to consult workers and their representatives when using this risk assessment process.

Getting the right information matters. There is plenty of incorrect information about COVID-19 vaccine on social media and other places. Point your employees to the right places to ensure they can get accurate and trusted information to help their decision making.

They can get factual information from Ministry of Health and the Unite Against COVID websites or by calling Healthline on 0800 3585453.

COVID-19: How to book your vaccination(external link) – Ministry of Health

Get the facts about COVID-19 vaccination(external link) – covid19.govt.nz