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13 Okt 2021

Debbie Jamieson, Stuff (New Zealand)

New Zealand: Business owners unsure on compulsory COVID-19 vaccines for employees

" Covid 19: Confusion for business owners over 'no jab, no job' dilemma", 8 Oct 2021

Employment specialist Max Whitehead has been inundated with enquiries from concerned business owners who are not sure whether to make Covid-19 vaccinations compulsory in their workplace.

If they make vaccination compulsory, they risk a legal challenge from sacked workers. If they put no rules in place, they risk Health and Safety charges as vaccinated staff are forced to work alongside unvaccinated workers.

Either option could result in loss of business from contractors, suppliers and customers.

Covid-19 vaccination is mandatory for certain groups of workers, such as people working within managed isolation and quarantine facilities, or at directly affected workplaces like airports, aircraft, ports and ships.

However, with no such order covering the majority of New Zealand companies, employers are left to make their own decisions on mandatory vaccinations with little guidance, said Whitehead.

A coalition of 25 firms contacted the Government, pleading for clearance to import 370,000 rapid antigen devices.

One solution would be for the government to make vaccinations compulsory in the workplace, but if that happened now about 50 per cent of New Zealanders would lose their job, he said.

A recent High Court decision found in favour of the government when a Customs employee was dismissed for refusing to be vaccinated.

“Employers will need to conduct a risk assessment on the work being done from role-to-role to establish whether there is enough risk to justify a vaccination requirement.”

Air New Zealand is one of the first high profile companies to require more than half of its full-time staff to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

The company had not formed a view on whether it could dismiss staff affected by the proposal who did not want to receive a vaccine.