COVID Protection Framework – What Rules Apply to You?

The details of the COVID protection framework, traffic light system were released last week on 26 November.  There are different rules for businesses in the red/orange and green level and we need to expect to see further clarification on this system as time passes.

Firstly a risk assessment should be undertaken to determine the level of risk of COVID-19 transmission and infection in your business.  You will then need to determine how to manage that risk.  If your conclusion is that some parts of your business need to be undertaken by vaccinated staff because you cannot otherwise manage the risk adequately, you will need to work in good faith with your staff by consulting with and communicating with them.   Likewise, you will need to consult with staff if you conclude there is no need to require vaccination.

The Government has said that they are working on a risk assessment tool but it won’t be available until 15 December.  This new tool will not override any risk assessments that you have already done.  But if you need further assistance with this, please get in touch with you as we do have Employment Relations and Health and Safety experts on hand that can assist our members directly.

Depending on whether vaccination is required in individual businesses determines rules of operating at each ‘colour’ level for that business.  If you are to operate under the vaccine framework your staff will have to have received their first vaccination by 3 December and the second by 17 January.

The Government has mandated work to be done by Vaccinated people in specific sectors only are as follows:

  • Border and managed isolation and quarantine workers
  • Health and disability workers
  • Prison workers
  • Education sector workers
  • Hospitality, events, close contact businesses and gyms
  • On-site tertiary education (only at the Red level of the COVID-19 Protection Framework)
  • New Zealand Police (sworn members, recruits, and authorised officers)
  • New Zealand Defence Force (Armed Forces and civilian staff).

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

Sign Making, Installation, and Manufacturing is not one of these sectors, therefore is not compulsory.  However common sense prevails in certain circumstances where there may be an instal that takes place at one of the above sectors, a risk assessment must be carried out and or if possible a vaccinated staff member may need to carry out the work in this instance.  However, you may come up with a risk assessment plan that best suits your business, staff and customers, for example, if a non-vaccinated staff member is happy to have COVID testing done before he enters a workplace site of the customer and is at the customer’s request that this is a requirement, as well as adhering to all the standard procedures like mask-wearing, scanning and social distance then this keeps everyone safe, happy and the work gets done with little or no risk.  Equally, if a staff member chooses not to be vaccinated, then an internal workplace assessment must take place to protect those vaccinated as they may feel uneasy working in close proximity to a non-vaccinated staff member.  Again, simple PPE practices should be adhered to like mask-wearing and keeping a 2-meter distance, scanning, and cleaning of the work area.

Advice/assistance on how best to manage staff who might resist vaccinations if made mandatory:
Our advice for this is to make sure in the first instance that you have consulted with your staff about your risk assessment regarding why vaccinations are being required, and how you have concluded that the need for vaccination is a genuine conclusion that a reasonable employer could make taking into account the issues identified.

  • Make sure you encourage the whole team to focus on shared values, respect for other views to minimise the potential ‘divide’ between staff.
  • Make sure you don’t assume people’s views and don’t share their vaccination status with others
  • Make sure that you have made yourself familiar with the information about covid vaccinations from the website and other credible sources (we can provide a list of some of these) so that you can advise them where to get this information from.
  • Identify who might be best to talk with them (a person they trust, a GP etc) to assist in providing them with information.  If this is you, meet with the staff member in private in a relaxed conversational tone to understand their vaccination hesitancy.  Actively listen and check for understanding.  Remain calm, empathetic, and respectful.
  • Acknowledge that we all have the same outcome in mind (keeping ourselves & family safe), we just have a different view on how to achieve it.
  • Reinforce connections, that they are a valued and loyal employee, avoid confrontations or arguments.
  • Engage culture & whanau connections where this is clearly needed (especially Māori, Pacific Island culture). Use the power of storytelling (e.g. explain why you are vaccinated & how you overcame your own concerns).
  • Use face-to-face communication rather than written as this displays the importance to you.
  • Consider whether to ask a team member to share their vaccination stories or stories about the impact of Covid infection.
  • Enable the employee to get vaccinated, e.g. explain that they can get paid time off / support with transport
  • Explain why we get side effects – it is our immune system practicing to fight the virus
  • Explain that you will give paid time off if they are unwell from temporary side effects
  • Explain the implications of non-vaccination on job security, earnings, ability to support family, social events
  • When people are against the ‘mandated’ aspect of vaccination, suggest that they remove that factor and consider what they want to do for their own health/family/community
  • Meet with the employee more than once to provide regular support and opportunities to ask questions

Assistance to manage the process if your customers/clients are required to show COVID-19 Vaccination Certificates (My Vaccine Passes):
Our advice is to ensure that you have communicated with your customers/clients that this is going to be your approach.  For instance, you might develop a policy around this and write to your customers advising them of your policy.

  • Ensure that you provide notice at your business to advise that this is a requirement of entry.  Put a sign up and download the NZ Covid Tracer App.   Click here for the resources
  • Think through the logistics of how this will work – will you need more staff or staff specifically assigned to oversee this process?  Do some trial runs to try out the process from approach through to entry into the business.  If this creates delays or bottlenecks, consider how to manage these (e.g. ask clients to come half an hour early).  If this means queueing, consider how you will maintain distancing requirements during queueing.
  • Plan for and practice de-escalation techniques for staff who will be at the front line in case they have to deal with upset or frustrated customers.

The COVID-19 Policy Risk Assessment Toolkit will provide the tools to help implement a COVID-19 policy in your workplace and determine whether roles in your organisation need to be carried out by vaccinated employees. This Kit contains everything you need to follow best practices and the legal requirements in terms of the health and safety risk assessment, consultation process, advice to employees, and provides a process for termination of employment (with templates for required documentation) should it be deemed necessary. It is suitable for use in situations where a Public Health Order does not cover the roles in the workplace and will not be superseded by the Government toolkit.

The Kit includes:

  • A detailed step by step guide for undertaking a risk assessment to determine the need for employee vaccination
  • A detailed guide for the consultation process with employees including a template letter to employees and template policy
  • Best practice tips from an experienced legal team.

To find out more about the Framework in more detail view here