Mandatory vaccination policies and procedures

Policy, New Zealand, Law, Employment, Rights, Contract

It’s all on with mandatory vaccination for social, health, education and prison staff in Aotearoa.

Employing agencies need to move quickly on their vaccination policy and procedure.

The Mandate

The COVID-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Amendment Order (No 3) 2021 has commenced. It provides for mandatory vaccination of certain roles in health, disability, education, and prison services (“mandated roles”).

At the Policy Place, we’ve been busy updating our policies and procedures for our members, because the pressure is on for services that have staff in mandated roles.  The legislation sets a fast pace.

Staff in mandated roles in health, disability and education services must receive their first vaccination by 15 November 2021. Staff involved with prisons must receive their first vaccination by 6 November 2021.

In this post, we outline some key responsibilities for employers and staff affected by the new Public Health order.

Management responsibilities

In the new regime, management’s responsibilities will include to:

  • Notify staff in writing that their roles are affected by legal requirements. Staff should be told of legal timeframes, consequence of non-compliance and how they may prove vaccination within the timeframes.
  • Actively protect rights of tangata whenua and address barriers to vaccination for Māori and Pasifika
  • Enable staff (especially those in mandated roles) to be vaccinated in work hours
  • Proactively and in good faith engage with staff about any issues or concerns about vaccination
  • Being prepared to stand-down staff who are unable to provide written confirmation of vaccination by required dates (eg 15 November for education, health and disability service workers; 6 November for prison staff)
  • Set up a system for recording vaccination information from staff (eg contact details, dates of vaccination, exemption from vaccination).

Staff/kaimahi responsibilities

Key responsibilities of staff will include to:

  • Get vaccinated within the legal timeframes
  • Be informed (by reliable means) about vaccination and the legal requirement
  • Engage in good faith with management about any concerns or issues with vaccination (eg if dispute they are in a mandated role)
  • Provide management with written proof of vaccination (by registering on My Covid Record and providing a screen-shot or printout of the result)
  • If relevant, obtain an exemption from a GP or other suitable health practitioner and provide written confirmation.

What if vaccination is not legally prescribed?

Check out our previous posts on risk assessing roles to decide if vaccination should be required.

Just because a role is not required by law at this stage to be vaccinated, does not prevent an employer from requiring vaccination where they assess high risk.

Every organisation will need to demonstrate due diligence in managing the health and safety of Covid-19 in the workplace and use of vaccination to mitigate risk.

It’s likely to be an ongoing process.

Given the nature of community transmission, risks are likely to change and so are decisions about the necessity of vaccination.

Contact us at the Policy Place if you need a hand with your vaccination policy and procedure.

Your workplace vaccination policy and procedure

You might think it’s easy when it comes to requiring staff to get vaccinated. They should be given the choice – jab or job, right?

Wrong. It’s not so simple at all, especially when it comes to vaccinations for existing staff in frontline positions eg health and social service staff.

It’s a balancing act

There’s some important interests like human rights and public health to think about and balance:

  • the right to refuse and give informed consent to medical treatment under the NZ Bill of Rights Act 1990 (sections 10&11);  Code of Health and Disability Rights (sections 6 & 7)
  • an employer’s obligation to take all due care to provide a safe and healthy workplace
  • a worker’s obligation to take reasonable care to avoid causing harm to themselves and others
  • the duty on an agency to take reasonable care to avoid causing foreseeable harm to clients, consumers etc.

And, amongst this, community levels of COVID-19 are also relevant and must be considered.

A positive work culture

Good faith and relationships in the workplace are also important to consider. Public debate too easily descends into blaming and name-calling.

You want to avoid to the greatest extent possible division and friction in the workplace about vaccination. The world is divided enough and a positive work culture is integral to retaining staff and achieving good results.

What to cover in your vaccination policy and procedure

See here for our Key Tips for your Workplace Vaccination policy and procedure.

Policy Intent

Another key tip is to be upfront with your policy intent. If you want to encourage vaccination state it, state it at the front or start of your policy. For example, that –

” the organisation supports kaimahi/staff to obtain vaccination as an important way to mitigate risks of infection of COVID 19.”

Likewise, if you’re worried about workplace divide and impact on culture, include it in your intent. As we suggested in Key Tips for your Workplace Vaccination policy and procedure, an important way to show good faith is to get staff input to the development and review of the policy and procedure.


Warning, ensure your policy requirements are consistent with your intent. If you’re only wanting to encourage vaccination, then stick to that. Don’t venture into mandating vaccination.

Any requirement for vaccination must be justifiable given the risks of a job and an assessment that vaccination as opposed to others measures is the best and safest way of managing those risks. You can’t require vaccination as a way of encouraging it.

Risk assessment

In How your policy and procedure can bridge the vaccination divide we gave some ideas to head off division and disharmony in the workplace in relation to vaccination. A key strategy is to be rational about it.

Your policy and procedure should reflect an objective risk assessment of roles in your workforce. This risk assessment will help justify why vaccination is a requirement for some positions. It will also help you identify roles where vaccination may not be necessary.

Information and support

Where reasonably practicable, support staff to get vaccinated eg time off for them and their dependents to get vaccinated and to recover if there are any after-effects; referral to public health information about vaccination.

Be an open book when it comes to information. Make sure staff are informed about all the issues relating to Covid-19, vaccination and how it’s relevant to their work and whānau.

For staff who are seem more hesitant about vaccination, engage with them in good faith and support them to address their concerns and questions. An in-person or at least one-to-one engagement with the kaimahi/staff member (with the option to invite their whānau) is likely to be most effective.

Check out Key Tips for your Workplace Vaccination policy and procedure for some more ideas about how to support vaccination.

Prove it

Don’t forget to require proof of vaccination in your policy and procedure.  Testing regimes have shown the danger of relying on self-reports.

Require the evidence to be kept on file. You are likely to need it if vaccinations are going to be required on a regular or annual basis to be effective.

Address the challenge

Your policy should include a process for kaimahi/staff, who are unable to be vaccinated because of a pre-existing health condition, and for those who refuse vaccination.

You don’t want these staff to hide they are not vaccinated and the risks this brings. So outlining the process and addressing fears like dismissal is important.

Incorporating your Good faith in Employment policy and procedure will be important. The process could involve steps like the following:

  •  assessment and application of other protections to the relevant staff (eg PPE, masks) for the person to continue in their role in light of the assessed risks (above)
  • an agreed change of duties or position where there is less risk
  • through to resignation and termination (if unable to adequately address safety risks.)

Get ready

Good news – if you’re a member of our online policy and procedure service, we’ve already got you covered.

If you’re not a member, now’s the time to start on your DIY workplace vaccination policy and procedure. Check out our posts on vaccination and DIY policy and procedure for help.