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Employers and the Covid-19 Vaccine

The information on this page is to provide general assistance to businesses and employers. It is recommended to seek legal advice before implementing any policies.

Workplaces will play a key role in supporting the vaccination campaign, and the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines will likely raise some important employment and health and safety questions. Amplify's recent Business Insights Survey highlighted that 77% of employers would like to encourage their staff to become fully vaccinated.

Supporting the vaccination campaign:

All businesses should support their workers to access vaccination without workers facing costs or disadvantage. This could mean:

  • Allowing all workers to access vaccination during work hours (when available) for themselves and their dependents, without using annual leave or losing pay.

  • Providing workers with relevant and timely information from the Ministry of Health or District Health Boards about the importance and benefits of vaccination.

  • Facilitating on-site vaccination, if asked to do so by the Ministry of Health or a District Health Board.

  • You can download Covid-19 vaccine posters, video's and flyers here

Continuing with other public health measures:

Current advice from the Ministry of Health is that vaccination supports, and does not replace, other infection prevention and control measures. Businesses must take steps to eliminate or otherwise minimise risks, including the use of personal protective equipment and cleaning, where recommended under public health guidance.

Businesses and other organisations should continue to encourage use of the NZ COVID Tracer app by clearly displaying QR codes, and must follow Alert Level rules.

Health & safety reasons for requiring work to be done by vaccinated workers:

Businesses cannot require any individual to be vaccinated. However, businesses can require that certain work must only be done by vaccinated workers, where there is high risk of contracting and transmitting COVID-19 to others. This will be a minority of all work in New Zealand.

To decide that work is high risk and therefore needs vaccination for health and safety reasons, businesses must first assess their COVID-19 exposure risk. This applies to work done by all workers, whether employees or independent contractors. Businesses must involve workers, unions and other representatives in the risk assessment process, and when deciding how to eliminate/minimise risks. Businesses should consider whether other public health measures (eg physical distancing, PPE usage) can minimise the risk of exposure and transmission of COVID-19.

Read here about how to decide what work requires a vaccinated worker.

If certain work can only be done by vaccinated workers, businesses should set a reasonable timeframe for workers to decide if they will be vaccinated. If an employee cannot work during this time, special paid leave should be considered, especially in the short term while employers and employees discuss what happens next.

A persons vaccination status is personal information:

Generally, a worker does not need to disclose (or prove) their vaccination status to a business.

If certain work cannot be done by an unvaccinated worker, a business can ask a worker about the worker’s vaccination status. If the worker does not disclose (or provide evidence about) their vaccination status, the business may assume the worker has not been vaccinated for the purposes of managing health and safety risks. However, businesses should first inform workers of this assumption, and what will happen if the worker is not vaccinated or does not disclose their vaccination status.

Employees cannot be redeployed or disadvantaged for refusing to disclose their vaccination status, unless particular work cannot be done by unvaccinated employees.

Asking candidates whether they are vaccinated during a job interview:

Businesses can only ask candidates if they are vaccinated when this is justified by the requirements of the role. For example, if a business decides, following a COVID-19 exposure risk assessment, that certain work cannot be performed by an unvaccinated worker, it may be reasonable to ask about an applicant’s vaccination status. This information will need to be collected and handled according to the Privacy Act.

Further information about vaccines in the workplace is available from Employment New Zealand

Davenports Law have written a great article with some legal advice.

More information about how you can support your workers to get vaccinated is available here have a Q+A page for employers, with answers provided by Jo Gibbs, National Director, COVID-19 Vaccination and Immunisation Programme at the Ministry of Health and Katherine MacNeill, General Manager of Employment Services at the Ministry of Innovation and Employment.


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