Life with Traffic Lights
On 15 December 2021, the Government formally released an optional vaccination assessment tool to help employers determine whether their workers need to be vaccinated. This tool is designed to give businesses assurance and confidence in their vaccination policies. The Government has issued mandates for certain groups of workers, e.g. border, health care, education. Employers can also undertake an assessment of the roles they have in their organisation to determine whether those roles require a vaccinated person to undertake the duties and functions of the role.
Use of the vaccination assessment tool is optional. While employers have sole discretion to use the Government’s tool or their own assessment criteria, doing so will likely assist in demonstrating the outcome reached is reasonable and justifiable.
Vaccination policies made prior to or without this tool continue to be valid provided they have been properly implemented following a health and safety risk assessment.
In assessing a role, employers must engage with their workers and worker representatives (unions) when undertaking the assessment. An individual’s personal views should not dictate the outcome of the assessment. The assessment is about the role NOT the person.
Worksafe NZ have an assessment tool that can be used. Information on that tool is available here: How to decide what work requires a vaccinated employee | WorkSafe
An alternative assessment is provided by MBIE on their Business NZ site at Vaccination assessment tool — business.govt.nz
MBIE state “Even if your health and safety risk assessment finds that vaccination isn’t required on health and safety grounds, you might deal with another business or third-party that makes vaccination a condition of doing business with them, or accessing their premises.
You are entitled to make business decisions and to structure your business to meet your clients’ requirements. It would therefore be lawful for you to require that workers assigned to work with particular clients must be vaccinated, where the client has made this a condition of continued engagement. That doesn’t necessarily mean that all workers within your business need to be vaccinated, only those who have to engage directly with clients who have imposed this condition.”
Once an assessment is done, it would be good practice to develop an appropriate policy and if roles require a vaccinated person, you should consult with role holders on amending their employment agreement to require them to be vaccinated, which includes having any booster shots that are required from time to time.
If, after completing the assessment with your staff, you don’t need to have a vaccine mandate then you still need to ensure your business is complying with the guidance from the Ministry of Health and Covid19.govt.nz website in respect to contract tracing, maintaining sanitization standards, and advising staff on what they are expected to do if they are not feeling well.
Refer: Keep up healthy habits | Unite against COVID-19 (covid19.govt.nz)
In applying your vaccination policy, consultation with your employees (and union(s) if applicable) is a critical requirement of introducing any mandatory vaccination policy. Employment law obligations continue to apply, and if an employee does not want or is unable to be vaccinated, you must act in good faith and consult with them before making any decisions that could impact on their employment. This may include giving consideration to working remotely, enhanced use of PPE, redeployment, and alternative arrangements. Employers may elect to exempt any workers from a vaccination requirement if you determine the employee can still appropriately manage the health and safety of their colleagues and others with other control measures, such as the use of regular testing and/or PPE. If these options are not viable, you MUST provide no less than four weeks' paid notice of termination to any employee that is not vaccinated.
You MUST also display a COVID-19 QR Code and or NFC Tag to allow people to record their visit to your premises. You should also provide a manual system for people who do not have a smartphone. These must be displayed in prominent places.
QR codes can be obtained here: NZ COVID Tracer QR codes | Ministry of Health NZ
A manual system should be provided for maintaining the privacy of individuals. COVID chits, that a person can complete and place in a box, are the best means of doing this. Chits can be downloaded here: COVID-19-Record-Keeping-Slips.pdf (covid19.govt.nz)
You MUST also have posters on display advising visitors/customers whether you have a Vaccine Mandate.
Further information is available at the following sites:
Vaccines and the workplace » Employment New Zealand
Testing and tracing | Unite against COVID-19 (covid19.govt.nz)
Traffic lights | Unite against COVID-19 (covid19.govt.nz)
Image Credit: Noah Dominic Silvio on Unsplash.com