Thursday, April 25, 2024

Vaccination guidance released for business

New guidance to support businesses and organisations through the upcoming changes to vaccination requirements has been released today.

The new guidance, published on www.worksafe.govt.nz and www.employment.govt.nz will help employers update their health and safety risk assessments, reflecting the changes to the COVID-19 Protection Framework (CPF). 

“With vaccine mandates to narrow on 4 April to only health and disability, aged care, prison and border workforces, we are providing updated guidance now to provide clarity and certainty to employers,” said Workplace Relations and Safety Minister, Michael Wood.

“The new workplace guidance is centred on public health advice, which suggests that requiring vaccination in the workplace should only be permitted if it’s deemed an employee is at higher risk of catching and spreading COVID-19 while at work, than they would otherwise be in the community.

“Employers may still be able to maintain vaccination requirements where they continue to be supported by a workplace health and safety risk assessment, but the reason will need to be specific to their role and set of circumstances.

“We would anticipate this will significantly reduce the use of vaccine requirements in most settings and the circumstances are likely to be more limited than they have in the past now that Omicron has entered the community.”

The Minister said employers should regularly review their workplace health and safety risk assessments.

“It is important for employers to keep in mind that normal employment law and processes continue to apply. Employers should be fair and reasonable in their employment decisions and work in good faith with employees and unions before taking any employment actions in relation to unvaccinated employees.”

“It is important that employers feel supported during this time of transition. That’s why we have taken the time to develop comprehensive guidance, backed by public health advice that is reliable for employers.”

He said the changes to the CPF had been informed by public health advice, and the latest international evidence available.

“With our high vaccination rates and the immunity acquired from the current outbreak, we can manage future waves of Omicron with less restrictive settings.”

“Vaccination (including boosters) continues to be strongly recommended as one of the key public health measures and provides significant benefits.

“I recommend that employers undertake an updated work health and safety risk assessment before proceeding with any employment processes they may have already in place.”

“It is also important to remember that the majority of New Zealand workplaces have not had a vaccination requirement in place and have managed well over this period.

“Throughout the pandemic, employers have shown their ability to adapt and respond to our changing environment while supporting employees. I’d like to thank them for the part they continue to play in keeping New Zealanders safe,” Mr Wood said.

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