Govt backs business to vaccinate workforces

The Government is introducing a range of measures to help protect workplaces and workers from Covid-19, Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety Michael Wood announced today.

“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 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. We’re working with the CTU and BusinessNZ to make sure we will have robust guidance for businesses ready well in advance. 

“A number of businesses have already gone through a risk assessment process to mandate vaccinations at their workplace, but we’ve had calls from both businesses and unions to make this 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.

“We know though that many businesses and employers who are not covered by vaccine certificates want greater clarity on whether they can mandate vaccines. This process will provide businesses with a clear and simplified legal framework to make decisions about requiring staff to be vaccinated or not.

“This risk assessment will build on the guidance provided by WorkSafe, with input from public health officials, business representatives and unions. It will cover factors like whether a workplace involves interaction with customers.

“This new process won’t override risk assessments that businesses have already done under the existing health and safety guidelines.

“We know that these changes raise questions around what happens when mandated employees refuse to get vaccinated. 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 to provide practical guidance on how to ensure workers’ records are handled appropriately.

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

“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.”

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

New Covid-19 strategy raises te Tiriti and human rights issues

Greater clarity on the Government’s response to Covid-19 is welcomed by the Human Rights Commission, but it says the Te Tiriti o Waitangi and human right implications need careful analysis.

A new Covid-19 Protection Framework for Aotearoa New Zealand was announced by the Government last week, setting out a ‘traffic light’ system for opening up the country, which has vaccination certificates at its core. 

Chief Commissioner Paul Hunt believes NZ is now at a pivotal moment in our fight against the virus, and our human rights must be clearly understood.

“It is critical we continue to protect the fundamental rights to life and healthcare and protection of people in Aotearoa New Zealand, while preserving the safeguards we have in place to avoid discrimination and a disproportionate limit on the rights and freedoms of groups or individuals.”  

The Commission is reviewing the human rights implications of the vaccination certificates policy, including how they will be used in practice, and in what circumstances.

Hunt says the lack of any specific priority within the framework to ensure a 90 per cent full vaccination rate for Māori is noted with concern, as this may leave some communities vulnerable to the continued spread of Covid-19. 

While the Government has provided funding to boost vaccination rollout to Māori communities these initiatives may take time to be effective unless implemented with urgency.  

Aotearoa’s death rate at 28 is dramatically lower than other countries. According to World Health Organization Covid-19 statistics Ireland, with a similar population to Aotearoa, has had more than 5000 deaths while Australia with a population of 25 million has more than 1500.

"Anyone who is able to be vaccinated against Covid-19 is encouraged to do so to fulfil their human rights responsibility to whānau, friends, neighbours, work colleagues, community and all front-line workers, such as health professionals and carers."

“Human rights are not just about rights. They are also about our responsibilities to each other, including the responsibility to do all we reasonably can to keep each other safe,” says Mr Hunt.

Information on Covid-19 and human rights is available on the commission’s website.

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Posted on 26-10-2021 21:13 | By

So will business’s now be liable if a worker suffers ill effects or heaven forbid death from the mandated vaccine. Neither Pfizer or the Government will accept responsibility