COVID-19 UPDATE | Business Vaccination Mandates

While Auckland is now 11,000 jabs shy of hitting 90 percent first doses, and with passport vaccines on the horizons for Kiwis who are fully vaccinated, Cabinet has decided to mandate vaccination for all those who work in businesses where a vaccine passport would be needed for customers to enter including hospitality, hair dressers, and gyms.

This follows calls from multiple sectors for more clarity on vaccination.

Ardern said she wants businesses open, customers safe and staff safe.

Exactly when the mandates will come into effect will depend on what "traffic light" we are in, according to Minister Michael Wood.

The Government intends to change the law to make it clear when employers in other industries can introduce vaccination mandates for their businesses. People who can't get vaccinated for medical reasons will likely be exempt from the new mandates, Wood said.

“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,” continued Wood.

“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 be required to give workers paid time off to enable them to get vaccinated during work hours and to keep records of employees’ vaccination status - something many businesses are doing already, noted Wood.

Cabinet will provide $4.4 million in funding for WorkSafe to help support its work in this area.

“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,” Michael Wood said.

According to the Restaurant Assoication, vaccination mandates for workers in the hospitality industry will present challenges, but are welcomed.

“This is a tricky new area of employment law, and so ensuring that businesses owners are legally empowered to enforce vaccinations in workplaces is a positive step towards ensuring safe and healthy workplaces,” said Marisa Bidois CEO of the Restaurant Association.

About 40 percent of the workforce will now be covered by vaccination mandates. The current sectors covered by mandates make up 15 percent of the workforce. The mandates announced today will cover another quarter of the workforce.