The New Zealand Government is introducing a range of measures to help protect workplaces and workers from Covid-19, Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety, Michael Wood, announced today.
“We’ve heard the calls from employers and employees to provide certainty on what roles need to be done by vaccinated workers under the Covid-19 Protection Framework,” the minister said.
“We’re mandating vaccination for workers at businesses where customers need to show Covid Vaccination Certificates to make those workplaces as safe as possible and give confidence to staff and customers.
“The timing of this coming into force will depend on when we move to the Protection Framework. We’re working with the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions (CTU) and BusinessNZ to make sure we will have robust guidance for businesses ready well in advance.”
Businesses and unions asking for clarity
Wood said a number of businesses had already gone through a risk-assessment process to mandate vaccinations at their workplace, but the Government had received calls from both businesses and unions to make this process as clear as possible.
Consequently, it would be introducing a risk-assessment process in law for employers to follow when deciding whether they can require vaccination by employees for different types of work.
“We know, though, that many businesses and employers who are not covered by vaccine certificates want greater clarity on whether they can mandate vaccines,” he emphasised.
“This process will provide businesses with a clear and simplified legal framework to make decisions about requiring staff to be vaccinated or not.”
Risk assessments based on various inputs
He said the risk assessment would build on the guidance provided by WorkSafe, with input from public health officials, business representatives and unions. It would cover factors like whether a workplace required interaction with customers.
“This new process won’t override risk assessments that businesses have already done under the existing health and safety guidelines,” Wood stated.
“We know that these changes raise questions around what happens when mandated employees refuse to get vaccinated. To provide clarity, a new four-week notice period will apply if their employment is terminated if they choose not to be vaccinated and their work requires it.
“This change will only apply to employees who do not have a notice period, or whose notice periods are shorter than four weeks. Most employees will have notice periods in their employment agreement.”