Vaccine mandates confirmed – is your business safe?


About 40% of the country’s workforce are required to be vaccinated under the new Covid-19 traffic light system

Currently, only high-risk workplaces and those in customer-facing roles will be required to have both doses of the vaccine. However, industry leaders are pushing for the Government to mandate vaccines in most other sectors.

Registered Master Builders is calling for vaccine mandates across the construction sector. Chief Executive David Kelly says members are facing a complex situation in the residential sector where clients only want vaccinated builders in their homes, which they are legally entitled to do.

“This places the main contractor in a bind, as they are unable to require their employees to be vaccinated, can’t disclose vaccination status to others, or indeed may not know the vaccination status of all their employees”, says Kelly.

He says Master Builders has received strong feedback from members across the sector that the lack of clarity around mandates is increasingly causing confusion and exacerbating already stressful client relationships during a time of peak demand.  This is on top of confusion about their Health and Safety responsibilities to keep their staff safe.

“A government mandate will clear that confusion. We need clarity, direction, and decisive action from government on vaccine mandates. In their absence, there is a risk of further disruption in the sector.”

The University of Auckland’s Dr Bodo Lang says mandatory vaccinations are long overdue and in line with many other behaviour change strategies.

“The only remaining question is why the desired behaviour is not mandated across all businesses. Collectively we stand to lose too much to make vaccinations optional.”

But the University of Auckland’s Dr Andrew Chen brings up the balance between public health and human rights.

“It is clear that the proposed framework minimises infringement on essential rights by ensuring that vaccine certificates cannot be required for essential services like supermarkets and healthcare facilities,” he says.

“The human rights case for access to venues like gyms and hairdressers is significantly lower than access to essential services.”

Work that requires a vaccinated employee

Certain work may only be carried out by vaccinated workers, according to WorkSafe guidance. The COVID-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Order 2021 specifies who those workers are. This is a public health requirement.

Employers can also require other work to be done by a vaccinated employee, if a risk assessment identifies this is necessary for work health and safety purposes. That may be the case where the nature of the work itself raises the risk of COVID-19 infection and transmission above the risk faced outside work. This is likely to have employment implications and you should follow Employment New Zealand guidance.

Your focus in the risk assessment must be on the role – the work being done – rather than the individual performing the role. If you want your employees to be vaccinated for reasons other than work health and safety that is an employment matter.

Completing the risk assessment

Your focus in the risk assessment must be on the role – the work being done – rather than the individual performing the role. If you want your employees to be vaccinated for reasons other than work health and safety that is an employment matter. 

When completing the risk assessment, you:

We have developed some questions to help you complete the risk assessment. There are likely to be other questions specific to your work that you should also ask.  Discuss these questions with your employees. Think about what the work tasks look like for a typical day or week. Identify the risk rating indicated alongside each risk factor. Where a situation is not black and white, a judgement call will need to be made. Advice from a health and safety professional may help you do that.

  1. Consider these risk factors
    • How many people does the employee carrying out that work come into contact with? (very few = lower risk; many = higher risk)
    • How easy will it be to identify the people who the employee comes into contact with? (easy to identify, such as co-workers = lower risk; difficult to identify, such as unknown members of public = higher risk)
    • How close is the employee carrying out the tasks in proximity to other people? (2 metres or more in an outdoor space = lower risk; close physical contact in an indoor environment = higher risk)
    • How long does the work require the employee to be in that proximity to other people? (brief contact = lower risk; lengthy contact = higher risk)
    • Does the work involve regular interaction with people considered at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, such as people with underlying health conditions? (little to none = lower risk; whole time = higher risk)
    • What is the risk of COVID-19 infection and transmission in the work environment when compared to the risk outside work? (equal to outside work = lower risk; higher than outside work = higher risk)
    • Will the work continue to involve regular interaction with unknown people if the region is at a higher alert level? (no = lower risk; yes = higher risk).
    • Record your results
  2. Consider other controls. Identify any further infectious disease controls you and your employees could put in place to reduce the risk. The Ministry of Health has detailed information about how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at work.
  3. Assess the results of your risk factor discussion and the impact of any extra controls you will implement.

If your risk ratings tend toward higher risk and you are not able to reduce that risk by implementing more controls, you and your employees should consider whether the work should be performed by a vaccinated employee.

If your risk assessment is clear that the risk of COVID-19 infection and transmission through a particular work task is no higher than outside work, you may decide not to require the role to be performed by a vaccinated employee.