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Mandating Vaccinations in the Workplace

Published December 19, 2021 (last updated January 24, 2022) - [email protected]
vaccines are mandatory in new zealand for some industries

The pandemic has sparked many debates about rights, choice, freedom, and divided many with the dreaded ‘V-Word’. Who would have guessed we’d be discussing Spike Proteins with friends over rather than the footy or Netflix! Many businesses are deciding if they want to mandate vaccinations in the workplace, and whilst some of your employees may be scrambling to get the COVID vaccine as soon as they can, others may be hesitant or deciding not to.

A business has many infection control measures that can be implemented to reduce the likelihood of the spread of infectious diseases (e.g. COVID-19, influenza, hepatitis) in the workplace, such as PPE, social distancing, as well as vaccinations to reduces rates. A good risk assessment will help your business with these considerations. You may be interested in mandating vaccinations for your employees, if so, in this blog post, we’ll discuss the hot topic of mandating vaccines in your business. 

Why as an Employer Would I Consider Mandating Vaccines?

A business has a health and safety duty to, (as far as reasonably practicable), to reduce the risk of a hazard occurring in the workplace. An infection in your business could affect not only your turnover and profit but also your reputation and the health of your valued employees. 

Can I Ask an Employee to Get Vaccinated?

Generally, there are 3 circumstances where you can direct an employee to get vaccinated.

  • There is legislation requiring the employee to be vaccinated against a particular disease in order to work in a specific field. 
  • There is a term in an applicable individual employment agreement or collective agreement that requires the employee to be vaccinated against a particular disease AND that there a sufficient justification based on reasonable grounds to require the employee to be vaccinated. 
  • If no legal requirement exists, where the direction to vaccinate is considered lawful and reasonable in all of the circumstances (including on health and safety grounds). 

*Information and rules regarding workplace vaccinations are subject to change with evolving government guidance, check government websites for up to the minute info.

How Do I Tell Employees That We Want to Mandate Vaccinations?

Notify employees of vaccination requirements under government law or public health order and follow the relevant guidelines. Vaccination exemptions may exist for some employees, such as on medical grounds. If an employee is exempt, obtain evidence of their circumstances. Do a Risk Assessment and implement measures. If it is still unsafe for the employee to perform their duties, call the Advice Team to discuss your options, we offer free initial advice: 0800 568 012

What If I Have No Legal Requirement to Mandate Vaccinations in My Business?

In the absence of a legal requirement to be vaccinated, you can only require an employee to be vaccinated if the direction is considered lawful and reasonable. A direction may be considered lawful if it is not contrary to an individual employment agreement or collective agreement, or Government law that applies. 

Is the Direction to Vaccinate Reasonable?

To establish the reasonableness of a direction to get vaccinated, undertake a risk assessment and consult with employees. Review the employee’s circumstances, including the nature and risks of the duties they perform in an environment which may be prone to infection spread or where close contact with vulnerable people is required. 

If you cannot direct an employee to be vaccinated, consider encouraging employees to receive a particular vaccination. If an employee refuses to get vaccinated for any reason, contact our trusted team 0800 365 516 for specific advice on your circumstances. 

Cost of the Vaccination

If the vaccination is supplied to the public free of charge (e.g. the COVID-19 vaccination), then ensure that the employee receives the vaccine during paid work hours (or paid if it needs to be done outside work hours) while covering any practitioner fees and associated costs. 

Deciding to Mandate Vaccinations or Provide an Immunisation Program

You must pay the cost of the vaccination. If the vaccination is supplied to the public for free, (such as COVID-19 vaccine) then ensure that the employee receives the vaccine during paid work hours (or paid as appropriate, if it needs to be done outside work hours) and cover any practitioner fees and associated costs.

Recommending Or Encouraging Staff to Vaccinate

You do not need to cover the cost of the vaccination or provide paid time off for the employee to receive it. You may, at your discretion, consider other ways to support the employee being vaccinated such as:

  • Agreements to access paid annual leave
  • Flexibility in work hours or location, and
  • Paid time off

Making Vaccinations a Condition of Employment

Making vaccinations a condition of employment may be reasonable but can carry high risk. Consider the following circumstances:

  • Is there a legal requirement for employees to get vaccinated in your business or industry?
  • Consider whether the employee’s duties cannot be safely undertaken without a vaccination.
  • Is it an inherent requirement of the role that a prospective employee will perform?
  • If unvaccinated, will the employee present a risk to the health and safety of themselves or others?

It’s important to consider that you could be exposed to a successful discrimination claim against your business if you do not hire a prospective employee for the sole reason they have not been vaccinated on medical or religious grounds. 

Need Workplace Advice on Vaccines?

Call Employsure now to get free, initial advice on what this change means your business.

About Employsure

Employsure is one of New Zealand’s largest workplace relations advisers to small- and medium-businesses, with over 30,000 clients across Australia and New Zealand. We take the complexity out of workplace legislation to help small business employers protect their business and their people.

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