Sunday, November 28

Business owners welcome vaccination mandates in the workplace

No jab, no job, policies are increasing in reach across the country.

Vaccination center

Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Under incoming laws, any business that requires a vaccination certificate for customers must also have fully vaccinated workers. This includes cafes, restaurants, meetings including churches, events, gyms and hair salons, and other close contact businesses.

This is about 25 percent of the entire workforce in the country, said workplace minister Michael Wood. This added to another 15 percent of those who already are or will soon have to be beaten, including teachers, part of the health personnel and border workers. The government estimates that this will be around 40 percent of the entire workforce.

Employees who refuse to be vaccinated can be legally shown the door after a four-week paid notice period.

Some business owners are breathing a sigh of relief, happy that the legal question has been taken off their hands and the risk of labor law that could come with applying their own mandate.

With more than 100 employees in four Auckland restaurants, Krishna Botica has been dealing with the headache of what to do with unvaccinated employees.

It had already put five of its employees on paid leave for not being vaccinated, due to the risk they posed to other staff who had underlying conditions.

The government’s announcement has given him a clear way forward.

“There was so much relief. I am very grateful. This is one less thing we need to worry about, and that is huge given the fact that many of us are fighting to save our businesses,” Botica said.

Botica said any personal grievance claims under labor law would have been added stress, so explicit legal backing from the government is welcome.

“This is a better way forward for our industry, with the full support of the government, allowing us not only to encourage those who doubt, but also to make sure that our own businesses are safe places,” Botica said.

Labor attorney Barbara Buckett said employment contracts will not need to be modified for this mandate to take effect, and people cannot argue that a vaccine requirement was not written into their contract when they signed it.

“The contract is subordinate to the law. So what I agree with you in the terms and conditions of employment can be superseded by any regulation. The law trumps the contract,” Buckett said.

She said there are still gray areas within the mandate, including exactly which companies will or will not be subject to it, but it was much closer to black and white than before.

The Council of Trade Unions supports the policy. He was consulted by the government on the policy, along with Business New Zealand.

CTU President Richard Wagstaff is encouraging companies to start talking to their people now.

“It is really important to talk to unions and workers about vaccination within the established deadlines. If there are low vaccination rates in any particular sector or workplace, employers need to really find out how they are going to vaccinate people. No They will. be able to operate without having the proper vaccinations, “Wagstaff said.

Business NZ CEO Kirk Hope said companies’ feedback on the announcement has been overwhelmingly positive.

However, at least one industry would be in trouble if it lost more staff: hospitality. The sector has been struggling to attract and retain qualified personnel this year.

In fact, some restaurants had closed some nights because there were not enough staff.

Marisa Bidois, from the Restaurant Association, said that while the law will be generally positive, losing staff, no matter how many, would be inconvenient.

“[Staff shortages are] something that has been raised, and we have been discussing the issues this could present, when we are already facing a severe skills shortage, “said Bidois.

The government said it will pass this law as a priority.

There will also be a risk framework available to other companies that are not subject to vaccine certificates to help them decide if they can require vaccines for their staff.

Employees who refuse will receive paid notice with a minimum of four weeks, even if they don’t have a written notice period in the contract.

When it goes into effect depends on when the country moves into the Covid-19 Protection Framework, the traffic light system, which kicks in once each DHB reaches 90 percent of its eligible population that has received both vaccines.

However, Auckland will switch to the traffic light system when its three DHBs reach the threshold, regardless of fares in the rest of the country, as the city’s border prevents residents from traveling.

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