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latest news in employment law

COVID-19 Updates

Published 19 Sep 2022

The COVID-19 Protection Framework (Traffic Light system) is gone from Sept 12th 11:59 PM.

The Government have decided to return to some form of normality and retire the system due to a largely immunised population and low infection and hospitalisation rates.

The main changes are:

  • All mask wearing requirements removed, except in healthcare and aged care facilities
  • Only COVID-19 positive individuals are required to isolate for seven days, household contacts no longer need to, but must RAT test daily.
  • All Government vaccine mandates to end in two weeks on 26 September
  • Support for business and workers to continue through leave support payments (LSS)

While this is long overdue news for everyone, businesses were hoping for isolation periods to be dropped further in line with overseas countries where we see isolation being between 3 - 5 days only.

The fact that only COVID-19 positive cases should now isolate means that the LSS payments are now only available for this group of people and no longer house hold contacts.

The questions being asked now are;

  • Do employers have to reinstate all the people who lost their jobs due to vaccine mandates?
  • Do employers have any right to maintain their own policies around masks or vaccinations?

The rules here are now down to the employer's discretion. An employer can still be justified in choosing to maintain a vaccination or mask-wearing policy if they believe it is a duly safe step to take in their operation. Best practice would suggest backing this up with a formal risk assessment.

Conversely, dropping such policies may open their ability to hire or re-hire staff from a wider market. Especially important now where we see staff shortages across most industries nationwide.

There is however, no obligation for an employer to re-hire or even contact an employee who was terminated due to a vaccination mandate. An employee does not have an automatic right to re-instatement.