New Zealand’s Public Service has played a critical role in leading the Government’s COVID-19 response and recovery effort. We need to ensure that the Public Service can continue to deliver on that mission, while continuing to serve New Zealand and New Zealanders, providing the services and support they rely on, as we return to normal living and working.

This means we need our policies and settings in all Public Service agencies to continue to meet the needs of the New Zealanders with whom we engage as the course of the COVID-19 pandemic changes.

We have shifted from an elimination strategy utilising alert levels to one of minimisation and protection with the introduction of the COVID-19 Protection Framework (CPF). These broad-based measures have been successful in preventing the worst impacts of COVID-19 seen overseas. High vaccination and booster rates have led to most people infected with the Omicron variant only experiencing moderate to mild illness and successfully managing their symptoms at home.

The CPF envisages COVID-19 will be in the community on an ongoing basis and that the CPF will continue to be the framework for dealing with the virus. The end of the current wave does not signal the end of the pandemic. It is very likely there will be future waves and new variants of unknown severity. We need to plan for a range of scenarios and have systems in place to monitor risk and be able to be agile in response to developments.

As the Omicron wave receded, New Zealand moved to Orange at midnight 13 April 2022 and will eventually move to Green settings under the CPF.

Complying with all required public health and social measures remains the bottom line for all agencies while continuing to provide public services for all of New Zealand. As we move back to normal working systems, we will look to embed some policies as part of business as usual. However, it is important that we retain the structures that supported our response, to ensure we can quickly respond to a new wave or variant. Agencies will need to keep their health and safety risk assessments and policies under regular review.

Agencies should continue to engage with workers and unions on how they comply with the public health and social measures of the COVID-19 response.

Overview of the guidance

This guidance is issued by the Public Service Commissioner under s95(a) of the Public Service Act 2020 and applies to Public Service agencies[1]. It replaces our COVID-19 Vaccination Rollout Guidance and COVID-19 Public Sector Workforce Guidelines.

Agency chief executives are responsible for deciding how to apply this guidance in the context of their agency.

This guidance is based on the current and immediately foreseeable COVID-19 context and will be reviewed and updated as require.

The guidance provides for a consistent approach to dealing with COVID-19 in the community and its impact, implementing policies, health and safety assessments, and processes across Public Service agencies and their workforces.

At all levels of the CPF, the guidance supports the expectation that all public servants who can be vaccinated are vaccinated, and those eligible for boosters receive them in a timely manner.

This consistency and alignment will support continuity of public services for New Zealanders, including those that are public facing. It will also support us to maintain the trust and confidence New Zealanders have in government and the Public Service.

Above all else, the guidance aims to protect the communities with which public servants engage, and the health and safety of public servants themselves, while ensuring New Zealanders can access the services they need, in accordance with the CPF.

The guidance also supports agencies to normalise the management of leave while operating under the CPF.

[1] Public Service agencies are described as: Public Service departments; departmental agencies; New Zealand Police; the New Zealand Defence Force; the Parliamentary Counsel Office; Crown agents; Autonomous and Independent Crown entities; other Crown entities; organisations listed in Schedule 4, and companies listed in Schedule 4A, of the Public Finance Act 1989; and the Reserve Bank of New Zealand.

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