Workers fired under business vaccine rules won’t get jobs back after April 4


Vaccine requirements are likely to significantly reduce in most workplaces after the rules loosen next month, according to government guidance released on Wednesday.

From 11.59pm on April 4, there will be no requirement to use My Vaccine Pass, and vaccine mandates will cover only health, aged care, Corrections and border workers. Businesses will still be able to use vaccine passes if they want to and introduce vaccination policies “if appropriate to the workforce”.

The guidance made it clear that an employee who lost their job due to a previous vaccination requirement did not have a right to get their old job back. It also said that employers did not have to ask employees who were sacked under a vaccination policy if they wanted to return to work.

Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Wood​ said employers might still be able to keep vaccine mandates if they were supported by a health and safety risk assessment, but they would need to be specific to a role and set of circumstances.

READ MORE:
* Companies not rushing to ditch their Covid vaccine policies after announcement
* Here’s what the new Covid-19 rules mean for you
* Businesses wait for news from Government on vaccine mandates

“We would anticipate this will significantly reduce the use of vaccine requirements in most settings and the circumstances are likely to be more limited than they have been in the past, now that Omicron has entered the community.”

The majority of New Zealand workplaces had not had a vaccination requirement in place, he said.

Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Wood says regular workplace health and safety risk assessments are advisable.

ROBERT KITCHIN/Stuff

Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Wood says regular workplace health and safety risk assessments are advisable.

When Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the changes earlier this month, some companies with vaccine mandates said they would not be rushing to making immediate changes to their vaccine policies.

Wood said public health advice suggested that workplaces should only require vaccination if an employee was at a higher risk of catching and spreading Covid-19 at work than outside work.

Normal employment law and processes still applied and employers needed to be fair and reasonable in their decisions, and consult with employees and unions before taking action in relation to unvaccinated employees.

Regular workplace health and safety risk assessments were advisable, he said.

The new guidance was available on WorkSafe’s website and on www.employment.govt.nz.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment was reviewing its vaccination assessment tool, designed to help employers decide which jobs required a vaccinated worker, to reflect updated public health guidance. The tool would either be changed or revoked as a result and businesses were advised to wait for that before taking any action.

“With our high vaccination rates and the immunity acquired from the current outbreak, we can manage future waves of Omicron with less restrictive settings,” Wood said.

“Vaccination (including boosters) continues to be strongly recommended as one of the key public health measures and provides significant benefits.”

From April 4, government vaccination mandates will no longer apply for early childhood and education workers, or for workers of premises where My Vaccine Pass is used such as gyms and close proximity services.

If someone’s employment was terminated while a government vaccine mandate or employer requirement was in place, that decision still stood.

“A former employee does not have a right to get their old job back, or any other role with their previous employer,” according to the guidance.

“In the current tight labour market, we expect that some employers, who no longer maintain a vaccination requirement, may want workers to return if they still have suitable vacancies. However, there is no requirement for an employer to offer a former employee their job back or for a former employee to accept.

“Employees will still be able to bring a personal grievance if they feel they have been unjustifiably dismissed or disadvantaged as a result of a decision their employer has made about vaccination.”

Employers with their own vaccination policy in place should review their work health and safety risk assessment in light of public health advice and any other changes in the workplace.

“If there is no longer a vaccination requirement in place, employers are under no obligation to contact staff who have left work or had their employment terminated to see if they are interested in returning to work. Employers may, however, choose to do this,” according to the new government guidance.

When hiring new staff, employers needed to be clear whether vaccination requirements applied or might apply in the future. They could ask if a potential employee was vaccinated, and could specify vaccination was needed to start work, subject to some conditions.

Employers with a vaccination requirement that had not yet come into force were advised to take a cautious approach and immediately pause any employment processes under way, such as termination of unvaccinated workers.

Employers needed to have a clear transition process if they were making changes to their vaccination requirements.



Read More: Workers fired under business vaccine rules won’t get jobs back after April 4

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments