Unvaccinated staff in businesses where vaccine mandates apply will not be able to continue their work unless they are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 by January 17.
The Government on Tuesday set out new requirements for workers to be vaccinated at businesses where customers need to show My Vaccine Pass under the new traffic light system.
It has also set out a simplified risk assessment process for employers to follow when deciding whether they can require vaccination for different types of work.
Staff who want to continue working in workplaces deemed higher risk by the Government, would need to have their first vaccination in 10 days time when the traffic light system comes into effect on December 3.
* Employment lawyer: Roles, not individuals can be mandated
* Covid-19 NZ: Government to extend vaccine mandates to businesses requiring vaccine certification
* Covid-19 vaccine certificate an ‘indirect vaccine mandate’ for staff, lawyer says
Workers would need to be fully vaccinated by January 17 to continue working.
Vaccination will be required for all workers at businesses that must use My Vaccine Passes to operate, or have the option of using My Vaccine Passes to operate with fewer restrictions.
It applies to those working in hospitality, events, gatherings, close contact businesses and gyms.
Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Wood said 91 per cent of New Zealanders had already had one dose of the vaccine, so for the overwhelming majority the requirement was not an issue.
“For those who are not yet vaccinated, especially workers in areas where My Vaccine Passes can be applied, there are 10 days left to get your first dose.”
He said a new simplified risk assessment tool for workplaces provided a clear, legal framework to help businesses make decisions about vaccinations in the workplace.
The tool would specify four key factors, at least three of which must be met, before it would be reasonable to require vaccination for particular work. More testing and refinement of the tool would happen over the next few weeks.
Lower risk environment factors are where workers are in 100sqm of indoor space of greater, or outside. They work at least 1 metre apart from others and are in proximity to other people for 15 minutes or less. Also, if the worker does not provide services to vulnerable people.
Higher risk factors include work in less than 100sqm of indoor space, less than 1m distance from others, more than 15 minutes in proximity to others and does provide services to vulnerable people.
Businesses that did not follow My Vaccine Passes requirements faced fines of up to $15,000, he said.
The vaccination assessment tool will be made through regulations under the Covid-19 Public Health Response Act 2020, after it was amended this week.
The new process would not override risk assessments that businesses had already done, he said.
Businesses could choose which one they used, and any assessments done to date remained valid, he said.
Legislation allowing the vaccination assessment tool to be created, as well as introducing four weeks’ paid notice of termination and paid time off to get vaccinated, would be passed under urgency this week.
The legislation would come into effect the day after it was passed, he said.
The assessment tool would then be available for businesses to use once regulations were made in mid-December under the amended law, he said.
He said it was common sense to ensure staff in workplaces that were either required to or could use the My Vaccine Pass were vaccinated regardless of whether the business chose to require My Vaccine Passes from customers or attendees.
“It gives confidence to the customers who are vaccinated and means the business will be less likely to be affected by cases.
“We have tested this requirement with stakeholders, and it has received broad support, including from religious communities.”