COVID-19 Vaccinations in the Workplace – Need to know

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The COVID-19 vaccine rollout started on 20 February this year. The vaccination is free and available to everyone in New Zealand, aged 16 and over. The COVID-19 vaccination is not mandatory. It is important for employers to be informed about how this may affect their workplace.

Legally, no one can be forced to be vaccinated. If you think there are tasks in your business that should only be carried out by vaccinated staff on health and safety grounds, you must carry out a COVID-19 exposure risk assessment.

To carry out a risk assessment for exposure to COVID-19 you need to consider two main things about the role:

  1. the likelihood of a workers being exposed to COVID-19 while performing the role, and
  2. the potential consequences of that exposure on others (e.g. community spread)

Please refer to WorkSafe’s guide on this.

Existing employment law obligations still apply:

  • making changes to terms and conditions of employment by agreement
  • engaging in consultation in good faith
  • avoiding unlawful discrimination against workers on the basis of vaccination status, and
  • not taking actions which might unjustifiably disadvantage workers on the basis of vaccination status.

It is highly recommended to get legal advice if you think particular work in your business needs to be done only by vaccinated staff.

A word on privacy

Privacy laws stipulate that you cannot share information about a person’s vaccination status with anyone, unless you have permission to do so or there is an exception under the Privacy Act. Your staff does not need to tell you if they have been vaccinated and if they choose not to have the vaccine, they don’t have to tell you why.

If you want to find out more information about the vaccine rollout, please refer to reliable sources:

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