Workplace vaccine ‘guidance’ updated by government

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New guidance to support businesses and organisations through the upcoming changes to vaccination requirements has been released today. 

The new guidance has been published on worksafe.govt.nz and employment.govt.nz and helps employers update their health and safety risk assessments, reflecting the changes to the COVID-19 Protection Framework (CPF). 

“With vaccine mandates to narrow on 4 April to only health and disability, aged care, prison and border workforces, we are providing updated guidance now to provide clarity and certainty to employers,” Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Wood said.

“The new workplace guidance is centred on public health advice, which suggests that requiring vaccination in the workplace should only be permitted if its deemed an employee is at higher risk of catching and spreading COVID-19 while at work, than they would otherwise be in the community.

“Employers may still be able to maintain vaccination requirements where they continue to be supported by a workplace health and safety risk assessment, but the reason will need to be specific to their role and set of circumstances.

“We would anticipate this will significantly reduce the use of vaccine requirements in most settings and the circumstances are likely to be more limited than they have in the past now that Omicron has entered the community.

“Employers should regularly review their workplace health and safety risk assessments and there are a number of public health factors outlined in the guidance that is recommended they consider as part of this process.

“It is important for employers to keep in mind that normal employment law and processes continue to apply. Employers should be fair and reasonable in their employment decisions and work in good faith with employees and unions before taking any employment actions in relation to unvaccinated employees.

“It is important that employers feel supported during this time of transition. That’s why we have taken the time to develop comprehensive guidance, backed by public health advice that is reliable for employers.

“These changes to the CPF have been informed by public health advice, and the latest international evidence available. With our high vaccination rates and the immunity acquired from the current outbreak, we can manage future waves of Omicron with less restrictive settings.

“Vaccination (including boosters) continues to be strongly recommended as one of the key public health measures and provides significant benefits.

“I recommend that employers undertake an updated work health and safety risk assessment before proceeding with any employment processes they may have already in place.”

“It is also important to remember that the majority of New Zealand workplaces have not had a vaccination requirement in place and have managed well over this period.

“Throughout the pandemic, employers have shown their ability to adapt and respond to our changing environment while supporting employees. I’d like to thank them for the part they continue to play in keeping New Zealanders safe,” Michael Wood said.

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