Business response to need for increased vaccination

21 Oct 2021

As the Delta outbreak continues to grow so too does the need to prepare New Zealand for the time in which Covid can be accommodated in the community without it bringing the economy and the health system to a halt.

With that in mind, BusinessNZ is currently working closely with the Business Leaders Health and Safety Forum, led by Francois Barton, as well as with officials and the Council of Trade Unions to develop approaches and guidance that will assist businesses to take defendable decisions in preparing their workforces.

In terms of approach, we are collectively supporting calls for greater clarity and better guidance on how employers can get their workforces completely vaccinated, and to manage instances of resistance to vaccination that may affect their ability to interact with customers or keep supply chains open.

Currently there are only two available approaches to getting the workforce vaccinated sooner rather than later.

The first is the use of Public Health Orders to require workers to be vaccinated.  These are currently applicable only to border and quarantine workers and to teachers and health sector workers.  The courts have upheld the dismissal of workers who have defied a Public Health Order to be vaccinated.  In principle we support further use of these instruments where the evidence supports a view that this is the best approach.

The second approach is for employers to require workers in “safety sensitive” roles to vaccinate.  While “safety sensitive” is a matter of fact and degree, it is also a fact that Covid poses a threat to almost every workplace.  Most if not all employers therefore have an obligation to assess the relative risks posed to workers and others and make decisions on the most effective response. However, meeting this obligation is challenging because there is no directly applicable law supporting this approach and employers must chance the possibility of legal challenges to their decisions. BusinessNZ and the Business Leaders Health and Safety Forum therefore are directing their efforts at getting some clearer guidance and legal protection for employers, to back the decision they make.

We will keep you informed of developments as they occur.