Changes to the traffic light system explained

23 Mar 22

The traffic light system is here to stay, but it will look different. Changes to the settings are taking effect from midnight this Friday, 25 March 2022. Read on for what this may mean for your business.

We are currently in the red setting of the traffic light system. From Saturday, the following changes will be made to the red setting:

  • Removal of capacity limits for all outdoor events.
  • Indoor capacity limits will increase from 100 to 200, however the seated and separated rules remain.
  • Outdoor face mask requirements will be removed.

Life at the orange setting will also change, when we do move to orange. The only restriction that will be in place will be mask wearing requirements.

At green there will be no requirements or restrictions, just guidance.

Vaccine passes

From Monday 4 April 2022, vaccine pass mandates will be removed. This means kiwis will no longer have to be vaccinated in order to enter those venues currently covered by the mandates.

Scanning in requirements will also come to an end, and businesses will not be required to provide mechanisms to do so.


At all settings, the isolation period remains at 7 days for positive cases and household contacts. This will continue to be reviewed regularly.

Vaccine mandates

The majority of vaccine mandates will be removed from 4 April 2022. These will only be kept in place for:

  • Health and disability workers;
  • Aged care workers;
  • Corrections workers; and
  • Border and MIQ workers.

What does this mean for your business?

Although vaccine passes will no longer be mandated, some businesses and events may still use them. The systems will remain in place to allow this.

Similarly, businesses in industries where vaccine mandates will be removed may still determine workers need to be vaccinated to do their work. However, any vaccination policy should be reviewed to ensure it is fair and reasonable, and achieving the purpose it was implemented for. MBIE are working to update advice to the private sector on vaccine mandate use more broadly. In the meantime, those businesses who relied solely on a government vaccine mandate for staff, but wish to retain that requirement once the mandate is removed, should start by conducting a health and safety risk assessment to assess whether there is a justifiable reason to do so.

The Government’s decision to remove vaccine mandates in certain sectors was based on advice from Professor David Skegg and the Public Health Advisory Group. In its advice to the Government, it stated that key observations are that adults who have received three vaccine doses are:

  1. Less likely than unvaccinated people to get infected with Omicron, and
  2. Less likely to pass the infection on to others.

The Advisory Group’s recommendation to the Government on vaccine mandates future use was that:

“the case for or against is now more finely balanced. Because of our relatively high vaccination coverage, and increasing natural immunity, as well as the apparent lowering of vaccine effectiveness against the transmission of the Omicron variant, while vaccination remains critically important in protecting New Zealanders from Covid-19, we believe that several of the vaccine mandates could be dropped once the Omicron peak has passed”.

We recommend employers review their vaccination policies to ensure they are still effective and required in the workplace. The removal of vaccine mandates in some sectors does not make all vaccination policies redundant, but does highlight the need for employers to be monitoring and reviewing their use in the rapidly changing environment.


Want to know more?

If you have any questions about the changes, please contact our specialist Employment Team.

PDF version: here.

For more information contact:

John Farrow