Legal Insights

Covid 19: Can employers require their employees to be vaccinated?

Recently, two major employers in New Zealand have stated that they plan to make Covid-19 vaccinations mandatory at their workplace. In the absence of a Health Order making vaccinations mandatory to all New Zealanders, this position of the employers has led to considerable debate in the business community.

The Employment Relations Authority in their recent determination in GF v New Zealand Customs Service upheld the decision of the employer to dismiss a border worker who refused to be vaccinated. This determination was fact-specific to border workers however the Authority did provide valuable insights for the wider business community. 

Some key considerations that an employer need to take before making vaccinations mandatory at the workplace are:

  • Firstly, the employer must conduct an extensive risk assessment and ascertain whether the risks may be eliminated or if the risk can be minimised in other ways. This risk assessment process must involve workers, unions and other representatives.
  • Before drafting the mandatory vaccination policy, the employer must consult with all the affected employees and explain the need for such policy. 
  • If a particular employee refuses to take the vaccine, then the employer should genuinely consider the employee’s reason and consider other options before deciding to dismiss the employee. 

Therefore, at present it seems unlikely that employers can implement a policy requiring mandatory vaccinations in the workplace without good health and safety reasons. Employers must assess their COVID-19 exposure risk to decide whether certain work warrants a vaccination.  

If you require further specific advice on this issue or have any other employment concerns, please contact one of our lawyers to assist you.

By Saurav Satyal

Saurav Satyal, Solicitor

The advice above is current at the time of writing, 20 September 2021. This article is published for general information purposes only. Legal content in this article is general and should not be relied upon as legal advice.