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Employers able to request vaccination status of staff

With the region's Covid-19 vaccination programme in full swing, businesses here have been requesting vaccination status from workers.

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment labour inspectorate national manager Stu Lumsden confirmed businesses could ask a worker about their vaccination status, but pointed out that workers would only be required to disclose the information as part of a specific risk assessment.

“Generally, a worker does not have to disclose (or prove) their vaccination status to a business, unless either for health and safety reasons, justified by a Covid-19 exposure risk assessment, or because their work is covered by the Covid-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Order 2021.

“If a worker does not disclose (or provide evidence of) their vaccination status, the business may assume the worker has not been vaccinated for the purposes of managing health and safety risks. However, the business should first inform the worker of this assumption and what will happen if the worker is not vaccinated or does not disclose their vaccination status.”

Collecting, storing and sharing information about people's Covid vaccination status must be done in accordance with the Privacy Act.

The ministry's website states vaccinations would not be needed for most work, but businesses should support workers to access vaccinations.

Some workers will have individual health concerns or other reasons for needing support. Businesses should ensure they do not directly or indirectly discriminate against workers on the basis of their vaccination status.

Businesses cannot require any individual to be vaccinated. However, businesses can require that certain work must only be done by vaccinated workers, where there is high risk of contracting and transmitting Covid-19 to others.

“This will be a minority of all work in New Zealand. This could change if there is a significant shift in the Covid-19 situation domestically.”

To decide that work is high risk and therefore needs vaccination for health and safety reasons, businesses must first assess their Covid-19 exposure risk. This applies to work done by all workers, whether employees or independent contractors.

This usually includes two factors: the likelihood of being exposed to a risk while performing a role, and the potential consequences of that risk.

If there's a high likelihood that the person performing the role may be exposed to Covid-19 and the consequences would be significant for other people, it's likely the role needs to be performed by a vaccinated person.

Businesses must involve workers, unions and other representatives in the risk assessment process, and when deciding how to eliminate/minimise risks.

Businesses should consider whether other public health measures (eg physical distancing, use of PPE) can minimise the risk of exposure and transmission of Covid-19.

VACCINATION DISCLOSURE: While employers are able to ask staff about their vaccination status, workers are only required to disclose this information as part of a specific Covid-19 exposure risk assessment, or because their work is covered by the Covid-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Order 2021.