The Government has announced it will mandate employee vaccinations across the hospitality industry.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said, “If customers must be vaccinated, then so too, must the workers.”

“The timing of this coming into force will depend on when we move to the Covid-19 Protection Framework.”

Ardern said the requirement would ensure staff and customers were treated equally, and it would play a “big part in helping to minimise the spread of the virus in the highest risk venues by reducing the potential for Covid to enter the business”.

The Prime Minister rejected suggestions the new requirement constituted government overreach and said the move had a public health basis, which balanced the rights of workers with the rights of business clients.

Challenges welcomed

Reacting to the news Restaurant Association CEO Marisa Bidois said vaccination mandates for workers in the hospitality industry will present challenges, but are welcomed.

“This is a tricky new area of employment law, and so ensuring that business owners are legally empowered to enforce vaccinations in workplaces, is a positive step towards ensuring safe and healthy workplaces.”

In a survey last month of its members, 40 per cent of respondents indicated that they would be willing to put a vaccination policy in their workplaces, while 25 per cent were unsure.

“In our discussions with members, feedback has shown some concerns around enforcing a policy that could make employers liable for discrimination on the basis of vaccination status.

“Whilst mandating a policy is a welcome step towards helping to keep businesses safe and operational, there is still an ongoing concern around losing valued employees to the mandate.

“We need to remember that our industry is still suffering a skills shortage and so rolling this out is going to have to be carefully managed to reduce the risk of losing a percentage of our workforce.”

Ease Legal Risks

This positioned was echoed by Julie White, CEO of the Hospitality Association of New Zealand. In a statement White said this law will create stressful weeks for hospitality staff and employers, but it will ease some of the bigger legal risks.

“We had to point these risks out in consultation a few weeks ago, so it’s helpful to have this clarity now. The law needs to eliminate the risk that any employer will be sued if they follow the Government’s framework for sacking unvaccinated workers.”

She warns that Government or public enthusiasm for the law comes at a high price for a sector already most hit by the Government’s health rules.

“After months of low or no income, hospitality is on a knife edge. After everything it’s been through, trying to hold onto staff – it will now be asked to go through the trauma of sacking treasured career workers, and to pay for their notice period.”

She says the sector is wary of the effects and costs of the law as there is a lot more detail to come, and practicalities to sort out.

“It is currently doubtful that discrimination based on a health and safety assessment specific to each venue can legally be used to support a society-level health objective. Discriminating against non-vaccinated people will be a prima facie breach of the Bill of Rights provision that people can refuse medical treatment. The Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination on grounds of things such as pregnancy, religious and ethical beliefs, and political opinion,” said White.

Four Weeks Notice

Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety Michael Wood told media the move was part of a range of measures to help protect workplaces and workers from Covid-19.

A new four-week notice period will apply to mandated employees who refuse to get vaccinated if their employment is terminated.

“Our law change will require a minimum of four weeks’ paid notice for any employee who loses their job because they are not vaccinated,” he said.

“This change will only apply to employees who do not have a notice period, or whose notice periods are shorter than four weeks. Most employees will have notice periods in their employment agreement.

The new announcements were geared towards giving clarity to businesses, he said.

“A number of businesses have already gone through a risk assessment process to mandate vaccinations at their workplace, but we’ve had calls from both businesses and unions to make this process as clear as possible. That’s why we will introduce a risk assessment process in law for employers to follow when deciding whether they can require vaccination for different types of work.

Greater Clarity & Record Keeping

“We know though that many businesses and employers who are not covered by vaccine certificates want greater clarity on whether they can mandate vaccines. This process will provide businesses with a clear and simplified legal framework to make decisions about requiring staff to be vaccinated or not.”

Employers will be required to keep records about workers’ vaccination status. Wood said MBIE would work with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner to provide practical guidance on how to ensure workers’ records were handled appropriately.

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15 Comments

  1. This is disappointing for an industry group have chosen to take a knee to political pressure and histeria. It is inevitable that COVID is with us to stay. Adding additional layers of compliance to businesses that are compelled to divide their customer base is easy to implement; but much harder to roll-back.
    Just remember what the definition of ‘hospitality’ is: The friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.

  2. The word refused is wrong to have an injection it’s not a vaccine the media and this pathetic government spending taxpayers money is disgraceful you can’t just put a bunch of words together.

  3. Being in the industry and having family affected, I look at vaccination as a positive way of returning to what was our lives. “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” – Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, 1982. Stop procrastinating. Where would we be if TB, polio and smallpox was sill prevalent in our society. Do you choose lockdown?

  4. I’d like to know what support there is for businesses that refuse to sack loyal and irreplaceable staff. If my business is forced to close because I can’t operate without staff – what happens then?

    I can’t see how why we’re forced to close because we won’t force people to take an experimental drug (A vaccine with only provisional approval).

    Uncensored doctors are saying this vaccine is like asking people to take a 4 year old flu vaccine. The current vaccine doesn’t stop you getting it and it doesn’t reduce transmission. Until we have a vaccine that does work how can we force it on staff?

  5. I share Shane’s concerns….who will be responsible for us not being able to meet our financial obligations when we are forced to close due to loss of staff and customers that chose not to be vaccinated ?

  6. Yes, I agree with those above that after 18 months of intense pressure on our industry, we are now going to be forced to terminate some of our most loyal and key staff? This is a totally untenable situation and is only going to cause more pain and grief for owners and workers alike. When is anyone from our industry associations going to stand up to this govt and fight for us?

  7. Agree with Disgusted, Concerned and Shane – I for one don’t intend to be the vaccine police and ask either my customers or my staff if they have been vaccinated. I am pro-vaccine (I’m double vaxxed and don’t think it’s experimental, dangerous, etc) but am totally anti govt. compulsory medical mandates, control and surveillance of people going about ordinary lives. This is the thin end of a wedge and we don’t live in a communist state.

  8. As an owner of 3 businesses and an employer of up to 30 staff, I fully support the vaccine mandate. I want to operate at all levels. I don’t want to expose my staff (some of whom are in high-risk categories) or customers to the risk of higher risks of unvaccinated people, and I also have families onsite with children under 12yrs who do not want them exposed to unvaccinated people. This allows me to have the conversation with my two unvaccinated staff members, and they can make the choice. Now I can operate legally and safely, with only vaccinated people (staff, customers, suppliers) onsite.

    This mandate will go a long way towards encouraging ‘vaccine hesitant’ people employed in the industry to get vaccinated now, which will help NZ reach that 90% sooner.

  9. FOR THE LOVE OF COMMON SENSE, Please explain how the unvaxed are a threat to vaxed, Lets stop dividing this country, Auckland from the rest of NZ, Moari and Pacific Islanders from Europeans, Vaxed from Unvaxed, We are all NZLanders where is our freedom of choice how are you going to manage the boosters rolling out in January for how long! Have respect love and loyalty to each other as the Govt obviously has no sense agenders unfolding as it suits them

  10. i have nothing against vaccinations but why are people so fast to take a substance that hasnt been tested long enough i my view to say that it works, as already there are comments about the fact you can still get covid and pass it on either way. just my opinion that it has now become a scare factor as the nation wants to go back to moving around freely so they are excepting the jab to do so maybe it is the edge of the blade making people make this discission to vaccinated because they do not want to loose their job or their homes infact no income no life pretty much is being said. I was always brought up to speak my mind and not to let anyone make me do or say something that I dont want too so im no to Mandates …. as they are also causing health issues (mental health) out there people are stressing and not couping and why should they say yes

  11. Agreed Shane, we opened a week before the lockdown in Auckland, and so were ineligible for any government support whatsoever. This is not how you run a country by forcing people to get invasive, experimental medical procedures, doesn’t the New Zealand Bill of Rights protect us from this kind of political over reach?

  12. How can we make it mandatory if our staff are refusing to get the vaccine? We can not get new staff as we have struggled for the last 18months to find staff. Its a no win situation what ever way I am looking at it.

  13. I am fortunate, that from my staff’s own personal beliefs and convictions – they are fully vaccinated. But I most certainly – have not forced them, and doubt I would. I concur with most of what has been said and most poignantly agree with “communist ideology “v” Bill of Rights and Freedom of Choice.
    I wonder ?? Scenario: A group of 6 people booked and on arrival discover 1 of those 6 – has not been vaccinated. What am I going to do? Turn away 6 customers or turn a “blind eye” to the one customer not adhering? (eg: $480.00 “v” nil )
    Who is going to “police” this? The odds of “getting caught out”? Penalties? Factions within our industry of those who abide and those who don’t?
    Simon Galt asked the question….. who is going to pay for the extra employee to check an individual’s compliance to this mandate? Who gets paid enough to deal with the “grief”. We are already “to the wire”.
    Isn’t hospitality an enjoyable experience, where we have fun and joviality – we are already masked up and “non-personable” in our attire, checking scanning in, now checking passports??? Where is the enjoyment? What is our business now all about ?

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