Rush to facilitate new Covid settings
The Government is rightly facing strong criticism for its last-minute rush towards implementing the traffic light framework and vaccine mandates later next week, with Parliament going into urgency yesterday for the first reading of legislation that makes a slew of changes to our Covid-19 response — changes signalled a month ago, that will have been being developed for weeks before then.
As Parliament is in recess next week, there are only two days for this hugely-significant bill to be debated; with no public input and without select committee review.
This for laws that restrict the lives of people who are not vaccinated against Covid-19; mandate certain businesses to police vaccine passes on entry; and allow businesses to require their staff to be vaccinated if they work in certain roles, and sack them if they don't.
Vaccine mandates will soon apply to about 40 percent of the New Zealand workforce, with the new legislation covering all employees in hospitality, events, gatherings, close contact businesses and gyms.
Businesses and sectors that fall under the new mandate — which comes into force next Friday — and fail to enforce vaccine passes will face fines of up to $15,000.
People who work in these sectors who remain unvaccinated have a limited time to get their first dose; it needs to be done by next Friday. If they do not and their employment agreement is terminated, a new four-week paid notice period will be applied. Businesses will also be required by law to provide paid time off for employees to get vaccinated.
Retailers are exempt from the vaccine mandate, but can choose to adopt the pass system.
Businesses that require a vaccine pass have been advised to download the Ministry of Health's NZ Pass Verify App, which allows them to scan and verify their customers' My Vaccine Pass or vaccine certificate.
For businesses that aren't covered by a vaccine mandate, an assessment tool is being developed for those keen to work out who of their staff should be required to be vaccinated. It will likely involve four factors around the type of work environment, with three higher-risk indicators needing to be met before it would be reasonable for a mandate to be imposed on staff.
East Coast MP Kiri Allan says she will be in Gisborne next week to talk to businesses about the changes and to answer questions. One also wonders what Trust Tairawhiti/our economic development agency is doing to advise and help prepare our business community.