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Workers & Vaccinations

This is a story that will be set to run for a while but employers in non-mandated workplaces naturally have questions about requiring current workers to be vaccinated.  

We’re expecting case law to evolve in this space but at the moment the process you need to follow is:

  1. If your worker is unvaccinated (or refuses to tell you if they are vaccinated or not which means they need to be treated as unvaccinated) and you have concerns about whether they can safely do their job unvaccinated, you need to carry out a Health and Safety Risk assessment on their job.
  2. Worksafe has some guidelines on how to do this at https://www.worksafe.govt.nz/managing-health-and-safety/novel-coronavirus-covid/how-to-decide-what-work-requires-a-vaccinated-employee/
  3. If that risk assessment shows that there is an elevated risk in their work if the employee is unvaccinated (i.e. the risk to the employee or their fellow workers is higher than normal outside of work risks) then you have to assess whether you can take steps to mitigate that risk.  It is important that your employee is involved in the risk assessment process.
  4. If you can mitigate the risk then these steps should be discussed with the employee and introduced into the workplace.  The employee can, of course, at any stage take steps to mitigate the risk themselves by becoming vaccinated and they may decide to do so after going through the risk assessment process with you.
  5. If there are no steps you can take to mitigate the risk (to the same level as normal outside of work risks) then you need to discuss this with the employee with a view to finding alternative ways of doing the work or alternative work
  6. If you cannot find a way forward at this point, the matter potentially becomes an employment issue and you should seek specialist advice (obviously we can help) to navigate next steps.   Each case will be different depending on the workplace and the employee’s situation.  We know that this can make it frustrating, particularly when we’re searching for answers quickly.

The answer however is to follow these six steps because, ideally, you don’t get to step six and the matter is resolved.  Many of our clients are asking us ‘what if’ questions about their employees and vaccination.  We cannot predict the ‘what if’s of cases as it will all come down to the specific job and an employees particular situation, along with the process you have followed.

So best advice right now is that if you have a concern about the health and safety risk of having an unvaccinated employee in one of your jobs, start doing the risk assessment and remember we’re here to help so always feel free to give us a call.