COVID-19 Update: Govt announces further industry vaccination mandates

23 Nov 2021

Government announces further industry vaccination mandates and sets out the process for non-mandated workforces

This morning the Government made some key announcements for businesses. There’s a lot of detail, so we’ve broken it down below:

  • Hospitality, events, gatherings, close contact businesses and gym workers will be covered by a My Vaccine Pass mandate and need to have their first vaccination by 3 December and be fully vaccinated by 17 January 2022. These businesses will not need to undertake further risk assessment.
  • Vaccination will also be required for all workers at businesses who choose to use the My Vaccine Pass. Employers must undertake proper good faith employment processes with workers and determine this through a risk assessment process, either with the current process, or the new process that will be available mid-December.
  • A simplified vaccination assessment tool will be available from mid-December, to support employers in their decision to require vaccination for different types of work; if they haven’t already undertaken such an assessment.

More on the new mandate:
Vaccination will be required for all workers at businesses that are required to use My Vaccine Pass to operate, or choose to use My Vaccine Pass to operate with fewer restrictions. This applies to hospitality, events, gatherings, close contact businesses and gyms. Tertiary education which takes place on-site is also included at the Red Level.

To continue doing that work, workers need to have their first vaccination by the day that the COVID-19 Protection Framework comes into effect. Government has indicated that this date is Friday 3 December. Workers will then need to be fully vaccinated by Monday 17 January 2022.

  • Non-vaccinated employees doing work that requires vaccination (either under mandates or an employer requirement) will be given a new four-week paid notice period if their employment agreements are terminated. This gives these employees a final chance to get vaccinated before their employment agreements end.
  • Employers will be required to provide paid time off for employees to get vaccinated.

Both changes are part of amendments being made this week to the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020.

What we know about the legislation
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, will be passed under urgency this week. This legislation will come into effect the day after it is passed. The assessment tool will then be available for businesses to use, once regulations are made in mid-December under the amended law.

What we know about the Vaccination Assessment Tool

  • The Vaccination Assessment Tool will be made available after the changes to the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020 are amended this week.
  • The tool will specify four key factors, at least three of which must be met before it would be reasonable to require vaccination for particular work.
  • This new process won’t override risk assessments that businesses have already done under the existing health and safety guidelines. Businesses can choose which one they use, and any assessments done to-date remain valid. We understand further testing and refinement will happen over the next few weeks

Risk indicators:

  • At least three of the higher-risk indicators (captured above) will need to be met before it would be reasonable to require vaccination for particular work.
  • It will be optional for businesses to use the tool. They will still be able to use other health and safety risk assessment processes. The tool will not override any risk assessments that have already been done. WorkSafe has provided guidance on how these decisions can be made - click here to see.
  • In the tool, the factor relating to ‘vulnerable people’ is defined as people who are:
  • under the minimum age to be vaccinated;
  • medically exempt from being vaccinated; or
  • at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

The Unite against COVID-19 website has a section that sets out who is at higher risk of severe illness if they contract COVID-19,  the definition of vulnerable people is based on this. Click here to read.

Employers can also require vaccination where a third party has made this a condition (for example to access their premises to work). However, just like using the tool, employers will need to work through any potential employment consequences of requiring vaccination for this reason.

These measures will be monitored to ensure that they remain an appropriate part of the Government’s COVID-19 response and will be amended when required, or removed when no longer needed.

What we know about NZ Verifier - the app enabling businesses to verify vaccination status
The NZ Verifier app can be downloaded from the Apple and Google Play app stores today. The app enables businesses to verify customers’ vaccination status.

For customers entering a business requiring proof of vaccination status, their My Vaccine Pass will be scanned by the verifier app. The verifier will show a green tick recognising the official QR code that is embedded into the customer’s pass.

It will show quickly that the person is fully vaccinated, or has the appropriate exemption and can enter their premises. Importantly, the verifier app does not store a person’s data or see any information other than a person’s name and date of birth.

Technical guidance for NZ Pass Verifier is available on the Ministry of Health website, with additional guidance for businesses using the verifier under the COVID-19 Protection Framework to be released later this week. People will also be able to call Ministry of Health on 0800 800 606 for technical support.