Planning for a vaccination rollout

With the Government having now announced that a staged roll-out process for the Covid-19 vaccination will commence in July 2020, this has begun to raise a number of questions for employers.

The announced roll-out strategy will see New Zealander’s, who wish to be vaccinated, eligible to book a vaccination appointment based on age brackets between July and October 2021.

As a number of people who have already received the vaccination report ‘flu-like symptoms’ for the 1 – 2 days immediately following the injection educating and communicating with the workforce will be important as this roll-out process commences.

The vaccination is not compulsory and therefore a number of employees may either waive their right to have the vaccination (for personal reasons) or may elect to defer the date that they have their vaccination in order to monitor the health effects on others first. However, where staff elect to have the vaccination based on their age-bracket roll-out schedule, it would be beneficial to encourage the employee to book an appointment either towards the end of the workweek or on their days off to minimise the negative impact on work attendance.

Key Questions:

Are days off as a result of the vaccination covered by sick leave?

Yes, if an employee suffers negative health symptoms as a result of receiving the vaccination injection, they will be entitled to draw down on any paid sick leave entitlements owing or request annual leave to cover a period of absence.

Note:     Remember, as a result of the recent change to the Holidays Act, the annual sick leave entitlement increases to 10 days per annum on the employee’s next anniversary date after 26 July 2020.

Is the employer liable for payment for absence due to Covid-19 over an above the sick leave entitlement?

Not where this is as a result of the employee electing to have the vaccination however if an employer requests the employee to have a Covid-19 test (as a result of them displaying symptoms or being exposed to a potential carrier) the employer may still be required to cover any period of absence with the employee awaits the test results.

Can the employer require employees to have the vaccination injection?

It remains a freedom of choice to have the vaccination however within specific work environments or work types the employer’s right to require employees to be vaccinated in order to safely undertake their role or to protect the safety of others continues to apply.

Can an employee be terminated for refusing to have the vaccination?

Yes, but only if the refusal to have the vaccination results in them being unable to fulfil their duties and responsibilities in a safe (for them and others) and sustainable manner and you are unable to redeploy them to any other suitable alternative role where not having the vaccination is as critical to the work undertaken.

Can having a vaccination be a valid pre-requisite for employment for new staff?

Yes, but only where not having the vaccination could justifiably create an untenable health and safety risk or liability for the employer, clients or other staff.

The above is an example of some of the questions currently being asked with respect to Covid-19 and the vaccination roll-out processes. However, there are many more questions that both employees and employers are raising with many employers seeking to put in place Covid-19 Operational Policies to assist in establishing clear protocols covering the full recruitment to termination elements.

If you believe that your business (and staff) could benefit from implementing a Covid-19 (Vaccination) Policy please feel free to contact us for a discussion.

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