A new vaccine mandate and further guidance for businesses is on its way
The Government has today released details of impending legislation to be passed this week regarding vaccine requirements for workers under the new COVID-19 Protection Framework system.
Businesses that require vaccine certificates from customers under the incoming COVID-19 Protection Framework system (also known as the traffic light system) must require their workers to be vaccinated. This will apply to those working in hospitality, events, gatherings, gyms, and close-contact businesses. We do not yet have guidance on which businesses will be classified as “close-contact”. The government has also clarified that businesses who have the option of requiring vaccine certificates from customers (in order to operate under fewer restrictions), but opt out of doing so, must still require their workers to be vaccinated. This means that businesses are not only less likely to be affected by cases, but also customers have certainty when entering into these businesses.
Affected workers will have until 3 December 2021 to get their first vaccination, and must be fully vaccinated by 17 January 2022. This does not leave a lot of time for employers to implement these requirements, and the Minister was clear that usual employment law obligations will continue to apply. We therefore suggest that employers who think they may be covered by this system start preparing the process now, ready to commence as soon as the relevant legislation is available.
The government has also announced it will be introducing a simplified health and safety risk assessment vaccine tool in mid-December 2021, designed to assist businesses in determining whether they can require their workers to be vaccinated. The tool has been developed based on existing guidance from WorkSafe and with input from BusinessNZ and the Council of Trade Unions.
What we know about the tool at this stage is that it can be used by businesses not covered by any mandate to determine whether it is reasonable to require their workers to be vaccinated. The tool will specify four key factors that suggest that vaccination is required, and if three of these factors are met, it will be reasonable for the business to require vaccination. The government has made clear that although the tool will provide businesses with legal certainty as to their decision-making, the tool does not replace existing guidelines for businesses. This means that risk assessments already carried out remain valid. Businesses have the choice to follow this new tool, or to stick with their existing risk assessment.
Want to know more?
If you have any questions about how these incoming changes affect you, please contact our specialist Employment Team.
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