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Vaccine mandates for close contact businesses

Photo. RNZ.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced a Covid-19 vaccination mandate for businesses in which vaccine certificates are set to be needed for entry.

This includes hospitality, events, gyms and hairdressers and barbers – classed as close contact workplaces.

Ardern has made the announcement at a post-Cabinet meeting alongside Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Wood, which you can watch live above.

"If customers must be vaccinated, then so too, must the workers," says Ardern.

"The timing of this coming into force will depend on when we move to the Covid-19 Protection Framework."

Minister Wood has announced that vaccination will be required for all workers at businesses where customers need to show Covid-19 Vaccination Certificates, such as hospitality and close-contact businesses.

Overall, Wood suggests, combined with the border, healthcare and education workers already mandated, it will equate to 40 per cent of the New Zealand workforce.

Ardern makes it clear that the mandate will not impact access to healthcare or businesses such as supermarkets. Access to Government support will also not be impacted.

A new law will be introduced to provide a clearer and simplified risk assessment process for employers to follow when deciding whether they can require vaccination for different types of work.

Non-vaccinated workers in roles requiring vaccination will be given a new four-week notice period to get vaccinated before employment can be terminated.

Employers will be required to provide paid time off for workers to get vaccinated and will need to keep records about workers’ vaccination status.

“We’ve heard the calls from employers and employees to provide certainty on what roles need to be done by vaccinated workers under the Covid-19 Protection Framework,” says Minister Wood.

“We’re mandating vaccination for workers at businesses where customers need to show Covid-19 Vaccination Certificates to make those workplaces as safe as possible and give confidence to staff and customers.

“The timing of this coming into force will depend on when we move to the Covid-19 Protection Framework.”

Wood says they are hoping to make the vaccine mandate risk assessment process as clear as possible.

“That’s why we will introduce a risk assessment process in law for employers to follow when deciding whether they can require vaccination for different types of work.”

Wood also details what will happen to those employees who refuse vaccination, without legitimate medical reasoning.

“To provide clarity, a new four-week notice period will apply if their employment is terminated if they choose not to be vaccinated and their work requires it.

“Our law change will require a minimum of four weeks’ paid notice for any employee who loses their job because they are not vaccinated.

“This change will only apply to employees who do not have a notice period, or whose notice periods are shorter than four weeks. Most employees will have notice periods in their employment agreement.”

Employers will also be required to keep records about workers’ vaccination status. MBIE will work with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for privacy matters.

“We understand the urgency and we expect these changes to be in place to align with the Covid-19 Protection Framework coming into force,” says Wood.                                     

“We will pass this legislation as a priority to give workplaces the certainty they need, because vaccination is one of the best tools to reduce the risk of Covid-19 spreading.”

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