Monday, April 22, 2024

Vaccination mandate for business sector

The 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,” Minister Wood said.

“We’re mandating vaccination for workers at businesses where customers need to show COVID-19 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 COVID-19 Protection Framework. We’re working with the CTU and BusinessNZ to make sure we will have robust guidance for businesses ready well in advance.”

He said a number of businesses had already gone through a risk assessment process to mandate vaccinations at their workplace.

“But we’ve had calls from both businesses and unions to make this process as clear as possible,” the Minister said.

“That’s why we will introduce a risk assessment process in law for employers to follow when deciding whether they can require vaccination 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. This process will provide businesses with a clear and simplified legal framework to make decisions about requiring staff to be vaccinated or not.

“This risk assessment will build on the guidance provided by WorkSafe, with input from public health officials, business representatives and unions. It will cover factors like whether a workplace involves interaction with customers.”

The new process won’t override risk assessments that businesses have already done under the existing health and safety guidelines, he said.

“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.”

“Our law change will require a minimum of four weeks’ paid notice for any employee who loses their job because they are not vaccinated.

“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.

“Employers will also be required to keep records about workers’ vaccination status. MBIE will work with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner to provide practical guidance on how to ensure workers’ records are handled appropriately.

“We understand the urgency and we expect these changes to be in place to align with the COVID-19 Protection Framework coming into force.                 

“We will pass this legislation as a priority to give workplaces the certainty they need, because vaccination is one of the best tools to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading,” Mr Wood said.

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