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No Jab, No Job!

Mandatory Vaccines - Implications for Employers.

 

 Bronwen Circle

 

The debate around no jab, no job continues to be gain momentum. New Zealand has, up until recently, been able to enjoy a successful “elimination strategy”. As a nation, under this strategy we have returned to enjoy large scale events and a return to what has felt like normal.

However, with Delta, this has changed the game. We have now been forced to abandon our elimination strategy and move into a “suppression” strategy. High vaccination rates in this new strategy are key.

The government in New Zealand has been cautious to wade into the business arena and set law around whether businesses can or should mandate vaccinations for their workers. Up until 11 October 2021 only border workers and MIQ workers were covered by the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Order 2021 (“Order”) which made it illegal for unvaccinated workers to carry out those roles. Cases are now going through the courts where employees who were in those roles, refused to get vaccinated and subsequently had their roles terminated by the employer without compensation.

Looking overseas, it would be reasonable to assume that the wave of mandatory vaccinations will make its way to New Zealand, whether through businesses taking the issue by the teeth and deciding to implement mandatory vaccination policies, or by the government widening the scope of the Order to cover additional industries. Yesterday (11 October 2021), the government did just that by the COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announcing that the Order will be widened to include education and health and disability sectors.

What this means is that:

  1. School and early learning workers and support people who have contact with children and students must receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by 15 November 2021 and must be fully vaccinated by 1 January 2022;
  2. High risk workers in the health and disability sector must receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by 30 October 2021 and must be fully vaccinated by 1 December 2021; and

In terms of the education sector, schools and early learning providers will need to keep a COVID-19 vaccine register and ensure that only vaccinated workers and support people (which includes teacher-aides, administration and maintenance workers and contractors) have contact with children and students.

It was also announced yesterday that in Auckland and other Alert Level 3 regions, all workers who work in schools must return a negative COVID-19 test before they can return to work and workers must have weekly COVID-19 tests if they are not fully vaccinated in the period leading up to 1 January 2022.

What this means for you

If you are in the education, ECE, health or disability sector you need to urgently seek legal advice in order to prepare draft COVID-19 Vaccination policy which is bespoke for your business. You will then need to follow strict legal process around communication and consultation with your team. This should be treated with urgency and as a priority for your business.

For businesses outside of these sectors, there is work for you to do as it may well be that you also have roles within your business that you should be considering for mandatory vaccination and / or putting in place a COVID-19 Policy for your team.

Please see our Vaccination Policies article.

 

For all your Employment Law queries, get in touch with Bronwen and the employment team.
bronwen@davenportslaw.co.nz | 09 883 3289

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