Employers have been grappling with the issue of vaccination in the workplace and what they should do when dismissing an unvaccinated employee. The COVID-19 Response (Vaccinations) Legislation Bill is intended to provide some clarity.
The Bill will be passed under urgency this week, aiming to broaden COVID-19 orders to better reflect the new measures and intentions under the traffic light system.
Notably, the Bill will amend the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020. Amendments will include, but are not limited to:
- Specifying services which must allow individuals to access them irrespective of vaccination status (e.g. supermarkets, pharmacies).
- Specifying the acceptable evidence required to demonstrate compliance with specified measures (how to prove vaccination status).
- Specifying the required dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
- Specifying the required details of vaccination certificates.
- Providing that if an affected worker fails to comply with duty to provide evidence of vaccination, the affected worker will be treated as unvaccinated or not otherwise permitted to perform their work
Another important legislative change involves the creation of a regulated vaccination assessment tool. This Bill further clarifies what criteria can be used by businesses to determine what work in their operations may need to be exclusively performed by vaccinated employees. The tool will be available for businesses to use from mid-December, however, employers can still rely on the risk assessment tool previously published by WorkSafe
The Bill also amends the Employment Relations Act 2000, inserting new provisions that will allow for:
- Employees to receive ‘reasonable’ paid time off to receive a vaccination.
- A termination process for employers to follow where there is a failure by an employee to comply with obligations – this may include vaccination, testing or other obligations as set by COVID-19 orders or determined by the employer.
If you would like any help in understanding how these changes apply to your business, please contact one of our employment law team.