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Covid-19 Vaccination Rollout

Published 17 Apr 2021

The COVID-19 vaccination has arrived in NZ and the roll-out has already begun.

At this stage there are potentially 4 different vaccines from different providers, 3 of which require 2 inoculations at separate times. The NZ population is considered in 4 groups with priority to receive the vaccination;

Group 1:

  • Border and managed isolation/quarantine workers
  • Health workers at the highest risk of COVID-19 exposure
  • Household contacts of the above

Group 2:

  • High risk frontline health workers, including aged residential care workers and residents
  • High risk frontline public sector and emergency services

Group 3:

  • People in the community, including older people and those with underlying health conditions or disabilities
  • At risk health and social services workforce

Group 4 - The greater community, to follow after the above groups.

Requiring vaccinations in the workplace

The advice remains the same. It's all about minimising Health & Safety risks and needs to be managed according to the perceived risk through consultation and good faith.

You simply cannot force people to take a vaccine, that's black and white. You could however potentially be justified in either redeploying them, and even terminating their employment in certain circumstances. The bar of both justification and process would be very high, and you would need to be able to demonstrate a high risk around contracting COVID-19, and you tried every option to redeploy the employee prior to termination.

Workplace Policy

Immunisation via vaccine is globally recognised as the best way to beat COVID-19 and employers need to be of the same stance to ensure safety in their workplace. Companies should develop a policy or position statement around vaccinations and information gathering. This needs to be developed in consultation and inclusion with all staff.

Employers advocating, encouraging and even requiring the vaccination in some circumstances is a reasonable position to take. It could be argued on both a business viability and health & safety front for this stance.

Employers are also allowed to gather private information from staff for legitimate business purposes providing they follow any Privacy Act regulations. Protection of data is a paramount consideration with this, and our suggestion is that you store this information in your Employers Toolbox cloud account under Health & Safety training. This section has two date inputs you can use for the dates of inoculation of staff.
While employees could argue against providing this information, providing false or misleading information is certainly an act of extremely bad faith in these circumstances.

If staff refuse to either take the vaccine or even give you information on their status around this, in the first instance at least you should record their response in writing along with any reason for taking this position. You can tell them you will assume they are unvaccinated and act accordingly.

We've put together free document for businesses to circulate amongst their staff outlining a suggested position on staff and COVID-19 vaccination. No two businesses are the same and your requirements and risks will vary from industry to industry, such a document does however provide a template basis for what you might want to consider including in your communications.

This document is already free to download in the Employers Toolbox Library, alternatively please see the following link to download.

Click here to download the template.

Employing staff - Can you ask or require job candidates around the vaccination?

You can ask, but you cannot force an answer. However, making an adverse hiring decision on the grounds of either refusing to answer or not getting the desired answer is risky. You could find yourself with a disadvantage or discrimination claim, especially if the person refused on religious or cultural grounds.

For more information on the vaccines and roll-out please see the Ministry of Health website