At 4pm, Tuesday 26 October, the Government announced a significant policy change for employers.
Under the Protection Framework (announced 22 October), some workplaces will be able to implement a vaccination entry requirement for their customers. This will apply to many restaurants, cafes, gyms, and other “close proximity” businesses, such as hairdressers.
Retail is excluded, as are many other workplaces (such as manufacturing, agricultural and general office environments).
The latest policy change means that employers who opt into the framework must also require their employees to be vaccinated.
The related legislation is still being developed (expected to come into effect December 2021), but it will include the following
- provision for paid time off for employees to get vaccinated
- If an employee chooses not to get vaccinated, employment law will still apply. Employers must still consider all reasonable alternatives, such as finding work elsewhere within the business that does not require vaccination.
- four weeks’ paid notice for any employee who has their job terminated because they are not vaccinated, and whose job requires it.
What if my business falls outside the Framework? (such as retail, manufacturing, agricultural or a general office workplace)
As outlined in our prior article, COVID-19 is a health and safety issue. A careful risk assessment must be the basis for any vaccination policy.
The Government is considering how to simplify this H&S risk assessment process, which is likely to make it easier for any employer to implement a vaccine policy in their workplace.
The same legislative requirements (outlined above) are likely to apply.
If my business is in the higher-risk category but I choose not to implement a vaccination entry requirement, do my staff still have to be vaccinated?
Unless your H&S risk assessment that indicates employees are at risk (see article, there is no requirement for your employees to be vaccinated.
In making that decision, it is important to understand that limits on capacity and space requirements will apply, and you may need to close in the Orange and/or Red levels. Such as decision may impact on your eligibility for any future COVID-19 related subsidy application.
Note: this only applies to restaurants, cafes, gyms, and other “close proximity” businesses, such as hairdressers.
When will this be implemented?
We will move into the Protection Framework when 90% of eligible New Zealanders are fully vaccinated. At this time, there is no specific date.
For employers whose operation is specified in the Protection Framework, and who opt-in to require customers are vaccinated, the mandate to ensure your employees are vaccinated is likely to come into effect before the end of November 2021.
For employers whose operation falls outside the Protection Framework, the new legislation is expected to come into effect in December 2021.