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WINZ support to continue for all, including unvaccinated

Work and Income support will continue for people regardless of their vaccination status.

“When a person applies for income support because they have become unemployed there are a number of criteria and obligations to consider when assessing entitlement and determining when support will start, Ministry of Social Development group client service delivery general manager Kay Read says.

“As part of that assessment we are also required to consider if there was a good and sufficient reason for a person to stop work.

“Examples of good and sufficient reasons include no longer being able to continue working due to having a health condition, illness or disability that affects their capacity to work, or a significant change in conditions of employment that mean the employment was no longer suitable.

“A person who is applying for JobSeeker support who left their job without a good and sufficient reason may have to wait 13 weeks before they can access income support.

“If an unvaccinated person was in a role before the requirement to be vaccinated was introduced, the introduction of a vaccination requirement would be considered a significant change in conditions of employment.

“This would be considered a good and sufficient reason for voluntary unemployment and would not affect their access to income support.

“However, if the unvaccinated person accepted a role knowing that there was a requirement to be vaccinated, and then lost their job because they chose not to get vaccinated, they may have to wait 13 weeks before they are entitled to income support.

“An exception to this would be if a person subsequently found out that they were unable to get vaccinated and have an exemption from vaccination. Then they would have a good and sufficient reason for voluntary unemployment.”

Tairāwhiti Beneficiaries' Trust advocate Shelley Hannah-Kingi said she had not received any local inquiries over the phone but had from other areas like Facebook.

“I haven't come across anybody who has been declined yet from being unvaccinated.”

Ms Hannah-Kingi said she supported the Ministry's decision to provide Work and Income support for unvaccinated workers who had lost their jobs due to the mandate.

“I think everybody should have a right to financial support, and some people have reaction to things. If somebody had a bad reaction to a vaccine, they should have a right to not take that vaccine.

“It goes both ways because people should have the right to stay safe as well.

“It's a really tricky one. When we went into lockdown and people were unable to work, a lot were paid the subsidy, and a lot of companies claimed the subsidy. So why shouldn't people who choose not to be vaccinated be able to get a benefit as well?

“I am vaccinated myself but I support unvaccinated people to get the income support from MSD, because they need something in the interim before they find some other employment.”

Ms Read said people who received JobSeeker support had a general obligation to be available for work and be taking reasonable steps to obtain work.

“They are also obligated to accept any offer of suitable employment. If they do not meet those obligations without a good and sufficient reason, MSD may impose sanctions.

“MSD takes into account a range of factors in identifying suitable employment opportunities for clients.

“An employment opportunity that requires someone to be vaccinated would generally not be considered suitable employment if that person advises us they are not vaccinated.

“Declining an offer of employment because they do not meet this criteria would not generally be considered a breach of their obligations.

“We will continue to focus on helping individuals, whanau and communities respond to the challenges posed by the pandemic.”

“The overall Government approach on vaccination is led by the Ministry of Health. We are supporting the Ministry of Health with their Covid-19 vaccination campaign by sharing their messaging with our clients and our emergency housing suppliers across the country.”