New Employment and Vaccination Law Released
The Government’s promised new law regarding vaccination requirements in employment has now been released, and is expected to be passed into law shortly. The Covid-19 Response (Vaccinations) Legislation Bill (the Bill) is intended to give employers clear powers to mandate vaccinations for work that requires vaccination and to protect and support employees while they consider whether or not to get vaccinated.
The first major provision of the Bill gives employers the power to terminate an employee if they choose not to get vaccinated and where their work is covered by a public health order requiring vaccination, or where the employer has determined (following a health and safety assessment) that the employee must be vaccinated to carry out their work. The Bill specifies that an employer considering termination in these circumstances must:
- Give the employee reasonable written notice specifying the date by which the employee must be vaccinated to continue to work; and
- Ensure that all other reasonable alternatives to termination have been exhausted.
If the employee is not vaccinated by the specified date, the employer must then give the employee a minimum of the longer of four week’s paid written notice of termination or the period of notice specified in the employee’s employment agreement. If the employee gets vaccinated during the notice period, the notice of termination is cancelled. This process does not prevent an employee from raising a dismissal grievance and the employer must still consult with the employee and follow proper process.
The Bill also allows for regulations to be made that prescribe an assessment tool that businesses can use to determine whether certain types of work require vaccination. It will specify four factors, at least three of which must be met for vaccination to be mandated:
- The workspace is less than 100sqm of indoor space;
- Workers work less than one metre apart from others;
- Workers are regularly in close proximity to others for 15 minutes or more;
- Workers provide services to people vulnerable to Covid-19.
Finally, the Bill also entitles employees to reasonable paid time off during their normal working hours to get vaccinated, provided the time off does not unreasonably disrupt the employer’s business or the performance of the employee’s duties.
Employers and employees alike have been wanting certainty around employment vaccination mandates and this Bill aims to deliver this. Hopefully it will enable employers to ensure that all roles requiring vaccination are covered while protecting employees from unreasonable interference with their conditions of work and their livelihoods.