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Q&A: vaccine availability for essential workers, vaccine information requirements for employers

09 Sep 2021


As New Zealand comes out of its second hard lockdown and the government ramps up the vaccination program, there are questions about vaccination what are requirements in the workplace and access to vaccinations.

Issues to explore when creating a workplace vaccination policy

The Business Leaders Health and Safety Forum has composed guidance on creating a vaccination policy, based on the experience of its members and international research and exploring issues that should be considered when creating a vaccination policy. 

Read the guidance>>

Access to priority vaccinations
Construction businesses required to work during Alert Level 3 and 4 can now book their workers for priority COVID-19 vaccinations.

Businesses can book by calling the COVID-19 Vaccination Healthline on 0800 28 29 26.  

You will need to tell the call-taker:

  • You are booking an essential worker(s) working under Alert Level 3 and 4, so that their vaccination(s) can be prioritised 
  • The approximate number of people who require vaccination.

For more information on vaccination, visit covid19.govt.nz

Are vaccinations mandatory?
Vaccinations are only enforceable for affected persons as required by the Public Health Order. An employee has the right not to be vaccinated and not work in an affected person role. This is restricted to those stated in Schedule 2, as noted in the legislation

Employers can assess the risk of specific roles within their organisation to determine if the role has high exposure to risk. Worksafe have published guidance on assessing if a specific role needs to be performed by a vaccinated worker. Read the WorkSafe guidance>>

Can employers make employees return to work who aren’t vaccinated?
Good faith discussions between employer and employees are the cornerstone of employment relations in New Zealand. Having discussions with employees to understand their risk factors and risk to those that are in their bubble (i.e. vulnerable persons) should be had.

Once the risks to the employee are understood should a decision be made to duties they should undertake. This may be a return to work if the risk is negligible/low or alternatively there may be other duties that an employee can undertake.

Do employees have to disclose whether they have been vaccinated?
Employees don’t have to disclose to their employer whether they have been vaccinated. Where employers request vaccination status from their employees they must ensure they have the appropriate systems in place to ensure that information remains confidential. This is a requirement under the Privacy Act 2020 revisions. Read a more detailed explanation>>

Information on the vaccination status of an employee can not be shared with a third party, e.g. a client, unless that sharing is authorised by the employee.

Can employers require workers to be vaccinated?
Employers need to engage with staff to do a risk assessment of the work that they do. If a work site is deemed to be high risk (e.g. a hospital or MIQ facility) employers will need to discuss with employees that only vaccinated workers can undertake that particular work.

This may include offering other work for non-vaccinated staff. At this stage we don’t expect a lot of civil construction work to be classified as high risk, although situations where workers are at risk of being exposed to infection, i.e. where workers may come into contact with raw sewage, may be an exception.

Read WorkSafe's guidance on assessing whether a role needs to be carried out by a vaccinated worker>>

Further advice
The advice in this article is intended as helpful guidance for employers, and does not constitute legal advice.

For more detail on employment relations with regard to vaccination, visit employment.govt.nz>>

CCNZ members are entitled to 15 minutes free legal advice from Core Associate Denton Kensington Swan. If you would like to access this service, please contact CCNZ Membership Manager Eve Cooper with a detailed explanation of your query, and we will identify the appropriate legal expert to advise you. If you have feedback on the protocols, contact CCNZ Technical Manager Stacy Goldsworthy.

 

 

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