Labour must take position on unvaccinated workers

The Government needs to decide how it will handle unvaccinated people in the work force sooner rather than later, National’s Workplace Relations spokesperson Scott Simpson says.

“I attempted to raise the issue of employer obligations to provide safe work environments where there are employees who choose to be unvaccinated at Select Committee this morning, but Minister Michael Wood was evasive.

“However, Minister Wood and his Cabinet colleagues need not listen to me on this. I am simply raising an inevitable issue that we are seeing play out in places like the United States right now.

“President Joe Biden has announced a policy whereby Federal workers will face restrictions and regular testing unless they can prove they are vaccinated. Even Walt Disney has made vaccination compulsory for most of its staff.

“In New Zealand, this is going to cause quite a complex legal clash as employer obligations, employee rights, the Human Rights Act, and civil action all come into play.

“Employers won’t want to expose their vaccinated employers and customers to unnecessary potential Covid-19 exposure. However, they also do not want to find themselves dealing with personal grievances from people who claim discrimination based on their beliefs and decision not to be vaccinated.

“The Labour Government needs to have answers for employers and employees as confusion around rights will likely result in workplace conflict, lost productivity, and a lot more employment law cases.

“No doubt unions will be formulating their own positions on this and it is imperative the Government isn’t lagging behind.

“Minister Wood’s suggestion that these kinds of things should be left to ‘good will’ is ridiculous. Certainty is a rare commodity these days and if the Government abdicates its responsibility on this there will be more uncertainty ahead for employers and employees.

“National encourages all New Zealanders to get vaccinated, however we understand it is unlikely that 100 per cent will. It would be pragmatic and responsible for the Government to be prepared with some solutions to these employment challenges.”