News & Thinking
New law on vaccine requirements in the workplace
The Covid-19 Response (Vaccinations) Legislation Bill was introduced yesterday and is expected to be passed into law later this week.
The Bill sets out the process an employer must follow to terminate an employee’s employment for failing to comply with a vaccine mandate imposed by the Government or by an employer (after following a health and safety risk assessment) and provides employees with an entitlement to paid time off to be vaccinated.
It is anticipated that the Ministry of Health will release an assessment tool in early December that employers can use to ascertain whether it is reasonable for them to require employees to be vaccinated or to undergo testing or a medical examination for Covid-19 which will give employers guidance on whether they can introduce these requirements in their workplace.
Before terminating an employee’s employment an employer will be required to give employees reasonable written notice of the date by which they need to be vaccinated and, where the employee is not vaccinated by the specified date, to give an employee a minimum of 4 weeks paid written notice of termination or the notice specified in the employee’s terms and conditions with a minimum of 4 weeks’ pay. Before giving notice of termination the employer must ensure that other reasonable alternatives that would not lead to termination of the employee’s employment have been exhausted.
The new law will not restrict an employee’s ability to raise a personal grievance in relation to the dismissal. As such, employers will still be required to consult with employees regarding the introduction of any vaccine or testing requirements and prior to terminating their employment.
If you are considering implementing a vaccine or testing requirement in your workplace, please reach out to our employment law and health and safety team.