Operating services under COVID-19 protection framework

The CPF provides a traffic light system to manage COVID-19 in the community with Green, Orange and Red settings. The CPF sets out general settings and restrictions in a range of environments.

The CPF also provides for localised protections to be put in place. Refer to the Unite Against COVID-19 website for the latest information on what settings apply and where.

The revised CPF can be characterised as:

Green: guidance only. The least restrictive level of the Framework, the ‘new normal’. 

Orange: public health restrictions are limited to only those needed to slow the spread of COVID-19 and ensure pressure on the health system remains manageable.

Red: broad-based public health restrictions to respond to an outbreak, or imminent risk of an escalating outbreak. The most restrictive level of the Framework.

As we move through the traffic light settings of the CPF, we expect agencies to tailor their protective measures to address their particular circumstances, taking into account their operating environment, workforce, and the people they serve. The broad principles in the public service are:

 

Green

Orange

Red

H&S Workplace Risk Assessment & Business Continuity Plans (BCP)

Agencies to review risk assessments and BCP considering various planning scenarios

Agencies to review risk assessments and BCP against emerging context

Agencies to review risk assessments and BCP against emerging context

Infection risk mitigation strategies

Continue to work within CPF, including showing QR codes until 26 March and supporting mask wearing for those that wish to and encouraging good workplace hygiene

 

Continue to work within CPF, including showing QR codes until 26 March, encouraging face masks and good workplace hygiene

 

Continue to work within CPF, including showing QR codes until 26 March, face masks, good workplace hygiene and physical distancing,

increased use of infection risk reduction for those staff in the workplace

Working practices

Workplaces are open

Workplaces are open Alternative working practices used as the exception rather than the standard. Working from home may be appropriate for some people - i.e. their particular circumstances warrant it

Workplaces are open Alternative working practices used as the exception rather than the standard. Working from home may be appropriate for some people - i.e. their particular circumstances warrant it

The phase one to three settings at Red, which have been in place to help manage our response to Omicronhave been removed. These phases were designed to support a managed approach to the risks associated with Omicron within our context at that time and may not return at future red settings.

Operating guidance under Green

Green is the country’s “new normal”. All Government mandated restrictions are removed. This is the least restrictive setting of the framework.  

Contact tracing

  • Completed by the individual when they contract COVID-19
  • Agencies may choose to undertake contact tracing of potential close contacts in the workplace, if they consider it is useful, for example, to maintain business continuity. However, this is not a requirement, and does not need to be reported to health officials

Access and record keeping

  • There is no requirement to continue to display QR codes on the premises
  • Agencies that wish to continue to use My Vaccine Passes as a condition of entry for visitors can do so - but they will need to be able to justify doing so, taking into account current public health advice and should consider their limitations given they are only evidence of the holder having had two doses or a medical exemption.

Health and safety infection mitigations

Physical distancing

  • No requirement for physical distancing in the workplace
  • No limit on meeting room occupancy

Mask Wearing

  • No requirements to wear masks in the workplace

Hygiene

Travel for business

  • No restrictions on travelling to offsite meetings although agencies may wish to examine their use of travel and consider where virtual meetings could continue to be used

Operating guidance under Orange

At Orange, Public Health measures are limited to only those needed to slow the spread of COVID-19, and to ensure pressure on the heath system and other essential services remains manageable. Face mask requirements are applied, but there are no capacity limits.

Settings are as for Green, with the following exceptions:

Mask Wearing

  • Wear face masks that align with the requirements in the CPF, that is: surgical grade for those carrying out public-facing work to which a vaccination mandate applies. Otherwise, a face mask that covers the nose and mouth and is secured to the person’s head by ear loops or a head loop is required in the places specified in the CPF Order
  • Encourage staff to use face masks where physical distancing is not possible, such as when moving about the workplace and through communal areas shared with people they don’t usually work with
  • Where face masks are required as part of personal protective equipment, these should be medical grade and supplied by the agency

Physical distancing

  • Whilst staff are not required to maintain a physical distance under the CPF, it is good practice to aim to keep one metre spacing, where possible
  • Set capacity limits for rooms
  • Encourage the use of virtual meetings for external participants, where possible
  • Review the amount of device or desk sharing within the workspace and ensure good hygiene practices are advised and followed.

Travel for business

  • Business travel is permissible where necessary, but care should be taken
  • If travel is undertaken, provision to allow isolation, if required, should be made. Further guidance can be found here.

Operating guidance under Red

At Red, there are broad-based public health restrictions to respond to an outbreak, or imminent risk of an escalating outbreak. Key changes to the previous guidance are:

  • Removal of outdoors face mask requirements from 26 March
  • Removal of the requirement for workplaces to display QR code posters from 26 March, for staff and visitors to scan in, and for worksites to maintain records of visitors to worksites
  • My Vaccine Pass (MVP) is not required for entry to worksites from 4 April, although some agencies may wish to continue to restrict entry to those able to present a valid MVP. Agencies that wish to continue to use My Vaccine Passes as a condition of entry for visitors can but should consider their limitations as they are only evidence of the holder having had two doses or a medical exemption
  • Working from home may be appropriate for some staff.

Leave guidance

The Ministry of Health provides information on caring for those who have, or may have, COVID-19 at home and requirements for anyone who is a household or high risk contact of a COVID-19 case. 

This section outlines the recommended approach to leave and pay for the following situations:

Self-isolating or caring for a dependant who is self-isolating on public health advice

Employees should be supported to comply with public health requirements if they are a contact of a COVID-19 case that is required to isolate. If required to self-isolate on public health advice, employees should not come into the workplace and should work from home wherever possible.

Currently, isolation is required for high-risk contacts and household close contacts only. Where it is not possible for an employee to work from home, or to cover periods of unavailability for work, employees should receive paid special leave, paid at normal rates.

The duration of this special leave should be capped at the duration of self-isolation required of a vaccinated person. Note that the spell of isolation for an individual does not reset if additional members of the household contract COVID-19 during the first case’s isolation period (Link).

This period of special leave may be extended at the agency’s discretion if the employee’s individual circumstances warrant it.

Sick with COVID-19 or caring for dependant who is sick with COVID-19

Sick leave or domestic/dependant leave should be provided in line with the employment agreement. If the employee has insufficient sick leave, agencies’ usual policies relating to discretionary sick leave apply. Where the employee cannot work whilst caring for their dependant, then dependant leave (sick leave) in line with the employment agreement should be provided.

Dependant requires additional care

There may be occasions where an employee is required to provide care for a dependant whose usual care is unavailable, for example the temporary closure of a dependant’s school or early learning centre.

In this situation, employees should work from home as much as possible. Where the employee cannot work whilst caring for their dependant, then dependant leave (sick leave) in line with the employment agreement should be provided. Agencies can consider special paid leave instead where dependant leave has been exhausted if warranted in the circumstances.

Agencies current arrangements for staff where schools are closed for operational reasons other than COVID-19 may apply.

Vaccination Guidance

The Public Service has created a strong foundation for our response to COVID-19, through workplace vaccination policies, and where necessary, mandates for some public service agencies.

We now have good vaccination coverage and that has contributed to the success we have had in responding to Omicron. But we need to maintain a strong foundation of protection so we can continue to safely deliver services and keep our people safe.

While the Government has signalled we are moving beyond the peak of the current Omicron wave and the need for certain mandates, the health risks to our workforce and the New Zealanders we serve remain. The current health advice is that vaccination and boosters help to reduce transmission of the virus, and we will need to maintain high vaccination levels (including increasing our uptake of boosters) into the foreseeable future.

Accordingly, our guidance to agencies continues to be:

  • Agencies should keep vaccination policies under regular review
  • Agencies should update their health and safety risk assessment and vaccination policy in light of updated health advice or changing circumstances and to meet the specific needs of their workforce and workplace. Worksafe have provided guidance on reviewing risk assessments for managing COVID-19 in the
    • At the very least, agencies should continue to engage with workers and their unions to support and encourage vaccinations including boosters
    • Some situations may mean that a vaccine policy that requires some or all of a workforce to be fully vaccinated (with booster) is still appropriate. Agencies are encouraged to get legal advice in this situation. MBIE have also provided information on other reasons for requiring vaccination of workers
  • Agencies should retain the ability to move quickly in response to emerging waves, new variants or updated health advice.

Agencies should now start planning to refresh their workplace assessments and to review their workplace vaccination policies. In doing so, agencies are encouraged to consult with staff and union(s) about those changes, and, if the agency chooses to relax its policy for the meantime, to agree what circumstances may cause a return to tighter settings in future, to allow a rapid escalation if required.

Every workplace, and workforce, is different, and it is expected that agencies will tailor their responses to address their particular workplace and workforce context. It is therefore anticipated that the public sector will start to see a lot more variation in our vaccine policies. However, at the very least, it is expected that every agency will continue to have a vaccine policy that educates, expects, and supports workers to be vaccinated (see below for ideas on how to do this).

For other agencies, or parts of an agency’s workforces, the health and safety assessment (or a vaccine mandate) may mean that stronger measures are required. This may include retaining a requirement to be vaccinated (with booster) to do part of, or all of a role.

There may be other options or contexts that sit between a policy built on “educate, expect and support” and a requirement for the workforce to be vaccinated to enter the workplace. For instance:

  • An agency may consider that a particular population group that they serve is more vulnerable, and that only vaccinated staff could engage directly with that group. However, this may be achieved through seeking volunteers who are vaccinated, for example
  • A worksite that is occasionally visited may require vaccinations (eg aged resident site) - again, that may be achievable through seeking volunteers who are vaccinated (with boosters)
  • Additional protection or actions may be required to keep staff safe as an alternative to full vaccination - for instance, more mask wearing or other actions to stop the spread of COVID-19.

 

Educate, Expect, Support

At the same time as undertaking a health and safety risk assessment, agencies should continue to educate, expect and support workers to be vaccinated. The COVID-19 Protection Framework (CPF) Workforce 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 guidance is unchanged.

Educate

Agencies should:

  • Reinforce that vaccination (and boosters) is the primary way we protect ourselves, our whanau and the community from severe illness from COVID-19. Everyone over 5 years old in New Zealand is eligible to be vaccinated. Boosters are the best form of protection against the Omicron variant
  • Provide the most up to date, accurate and reliable information on the benefits of vaccination to individuals and the community from trusted sources – govt.nz, Covid19.govt.nz, and karawhiua.nz
  • Be alert to scams and misinformation. Be aware of incorrect information on social media and other places and get accurate and trusted information. More information on recognising misinformation and scams can also be found on the COVID-19 website and CERTNZ
  • Assure workers and unions that if agencies require personal information to support the vaccine rollout, correct privacy and consent protocols will be followed and all information will be treated as confidential and only accessed by appropriate personnel
  • Advise employees that if information is required, but not provided, non-vaccination will be assumed and what that means for them
  • Consider holding information meetings or using bulletins to update workers when important messaging is required
  • Use managers, union officials, health and safety representatives and other key workers to lead and support the vaccination conversation.

Expect

Agencies need to communicate an expectation that all workers who can be vaccinated will be vaccinated and have boosters when eligible. Senior leaders should role model and strongly encourage workers to be vaccinated.

Support

Agencies must:

  • Ensure employees are paid for time required to get the vaccine or booster and any time off required to deal with immediate or delayed side effects from the vaccine should be treated as paid special leave
  • Ensure employees are given enough time to complete their vaccination and, if off-site, include travel time.

Agencies should:

  • Acknowledge and support employees who may require more information and time to make an informed decision on getting the vaccine
  • Support employees’ choice of vaccination provider such as their own doctor
  • Encourage employees to ask questions that enable them to make an informed decision on being vaccinated.

If an employee needs to support a child or other dependant to get vaccinated in work hours, this should be treated as paid special leave.

If the employee needs to support the dependant to deal with immediate or delayed side effects, sick or dependant leave should be used. Payment should be in line with usual agency practice. If the employee has insufficient sick/dependant leave, they may receive additional discretionary paid leave.

Vaccination and pregnant or breastfeeding staff

Ministry of Health have provided extensive guidance on vaccine safety which can be used to support discussions with staff who are pregnant, or who are breastfeeding, and who have concerns over the vaccine.

For those who remain vaccine hesitant, agencies should follow good practice in reviewing each case on its individual circumstances, considering alternative working practices with reference to their own agency’s health and safety risk assessment, the business continuity plans and their obligation to continue to deliver public services and the COVID-19 response. Agencies are encouraged to engage with the staff member, and any union representatives, prior to a decision being made.

The use of boosters within vaccination policies

The Health advice is clear that three doses of the vaccine reduce the chances of hospitalisation and lowers the transmissibility of Omicron. Put simply, if you don’t get the virus, you can’t give it to someone else.

The Government has signalled that boosters may be required for My Vaccine Passes in the near future. Agencies that use the MVP method as a proxy for vaccination status should consider their limitations as they are currently only evidence of the holder having had two doses or a medical exemption.

Alternatives to dismissal

Dismissal under any vaccination policy should only occur after all reasonable alternatives have been exhausted, taking into account the relevant health and safety risk assessment and individual circumstances considered. Agencies will need to take into consideration the rapidly changing nature of the environment when considering if any alternative is reasonable.

Potential alternatives to dismissal to be explored may include:

  • Revision to an individual’s role
  • Opportunities to redeploy the staff member, including into ‘bubbles of one’
  • Opportunities to work from home or altered working arrangements
  • Leave without pay
  • Use of daily rapid antigen tests (RATs) prior to commencing work (noting they are not a substitute for vaccination and having regard to the current health advice).

Note that some of these alternatives may have also been considered during the health and safety risk assessment when evaluating whether vaccination is required for the role.

In considering what are reasonable alternatives to dismissal, agencies need to consider their workforce and workplace situation and needs, in both the short and long term.

Re-hiring someone dismissed due to a previous vaccination requirement

If someone’s employment was terminated and this took effect while a government vaccination mandate or employer vaccination requirement was in place, that decision still stands.  A former employee does not have a right to get their old job back, or any other role with their previous employer.

It’s also important to note that while government vaccination mandates have been lifted for some sectors, employers may choose to implement an employer vaccination requirement.

Some employers, who no longer maintain a vaccination requirement, may want workers to return if they still have suitable vacancies. However, there is no requirement for an employer to offer a former employee their job back or for a former employee to accept.

Vaccination requirement for new employees for work covered by a vaccination policy

New appointees to the Public Service, and existing public servants taking up a role with another agency will also be covered by the agency’s vaccination policy and should be made aware of its contents when they start employment. If the role does not currently require vaccination but may do so if a future variant or wave was to occur, this possibility should be drawn to the potential employee’s attention prior to them accepting the role. Likewise, if the role does require vaccination, the potential employee should be informed of that in writing, prior to accepting the role. MBIE have provided further guidance on vaccination requirements when hiring new employees.

Where an employee does not consider they can work safely in the workplace

Agencies should:

  • Consider the risk to the employee, those in their household, and other people in the workplace, taking into account the agency’s health and safety risk assessment and vaccination policy, if in place
  • Discuss the risk assessment with the employee, including the controls that are in place for their safety
  • Discuss if there are any other reasonable controls or actions by the employee that could help them to feel safer within the workplace
  • Determine an appropriate response in line with employer and employee duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 and public health advice from the Ministry of Health
  • If the parties cannot agree, treat the situation as a work from home request and apply the employer’s usual policy.

Where it is not possible for an employee to work remotely, try to address the employee’s concerns as far as possible and ask the employee to attend work, noting that high vaccination rates plus the booster, combined with other COVID-19 precautions such as physical distancing, face masks, the use of rapid antigen tests, staying home if sick and hand hygiene will provide greater protection against both the spread of COVID-19 and severe illness.

If the employee is still refusing to attend the workplace, and working from home is not sustainable, the agency may wish to consider redeployment of the employee as a part of exhausting all reasonable alternatives prior to dismissing staff on the basis of their refusal.

Legislative vaccination mandates

Legislative booster mandates are in place affecting some public sector workforces:

Workers covered by the Order are required to have a booster. Border and health workers are required to have received their booster by 15 February 2022, or no later than six months after their second dose. Corrections workers are required to have received their booster by 1 March 2022, or no later than six months after their second dose.

Schedule 2 of the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Order 2021 lists the specific work covered by a legislative vaccination mandate. Schedule 3 sets out the vaccination requirements. Schedule 4 sets out the booster requirements. Part 8 sets out the booster deadlines.

Employees who are not fully vaccinated, or vaccinated and boosted, in a role where this is required by legislative mandate

If the role of an employee who is not fully vaccinated and boosted as required by the Order, or has not provided their vaccination status, includes work that is covered by a mandate (affected work), agencies should arrange an individual conversation with the employee. Ensure the employee has access to their union representative or other support person throughout this process.

The purpose of the conversation is to:

  • Discuss in good faith the assessment that shows the employee’s role includes affected work
  • Outline the timeframe by which the work will only be undertaken by vaccinated and boosted employees
  • Offer an opportunity for the employee to provide feedback on the assessment and timeframe
  • Offer further support to be vaccinated
  • Explore alternative options such as:
    • Changes to the employee’s role (including location at which work is performed) to ensure it does not include affected work
    • Redeployment to suitable alternative duties within the agency that do not include affected work
    • Temporary redeployment to suitable alternative duties in a different agency
    • Four weeks’ paid notice of termination (or the notice period of their employment agreement if more than four weeks) if no suitable alternatives are available.

Employees in a role where the legislative mandate is scheduled to be removed

From 4 April vaccination mandates no longer apply to the New Zealand Police, New Zealand Defence Force and Education sector. Agencies are strongly advised to complete a health and safety risk assessment regarding the possible continuing requirement for vaccination in these workforces. This should be completed prior to the mandates removal. Please refer to Section 4 Vaccination Guidance and Appendix One for further details on this.

Appendix One - Reviewing vaccination requirements in a Public Service Workplace

Stage one – Conduct a health and safety risk assessment

Each public service agency must conduct a systematic health and safety risk assessment to determine whether, and to what level, vaccination is required to work in the workplace. This includes reviewing an existing policy as part of the regular review cycle, in light of new health advice or some other substantive reason.

Agencies are advised to consider the use of boosters when determining whether a vaccination policy is required, or when reviewing their existing vaccination policy.

This assessment must be consistent with the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.

The assessment process can use agencies’ usual health and safety risk assessment framework. It can be a high-level desktop analysis of the work undertaken in the agency. Worksafe have provided further guidance on undertaking and reviewing risk assessments.

The risk assessment should be developed in consultation with workers, unions and health and safety representatives. Agencies also need to ensure that they meet the overlapping duties to consult, cooperate and coordinate with other PCBUs. MBIE have provided further guidance and FAQ to help organisations through the review process

The outcome of this process will determine whether vaccination is required to work in the workplace and inform the development, and review, of a vaccination policy (see stage two).

Identify work tasks and situations

Agency risk assessments must consider risks of both agency workers transmitting COVID-19 to others during work, and agency workers becoming infected with COVID-19 at work. Assessments should be based on an assumption of community transmission of a highly transmissible variant.

The first stage of the risk assessment process is to identify where the infection of COVID-19 is most likely to occur for each role, based on the way work tasks are done in the agency. The most likely source of infection in the workplace is where workers interact with others. Consider:

  • Work tasks that involve contact with others
  • The nature of that contact (frequency of exposure and duration), vaccination status being known or unknown, whether the work is undertaken indoors or outdoors, physical distancing
  • What factors the agency has influence and control over (environment, people and processes).

Assess inherent risk

With the work tasks and likely transmission situations identified, the consequences and likelihood of infection occurring should be considered and mapped against the agency’s risk assessment matrix/definitions. These should be defined as if there were no controls currently in place.

Consider:

  • The consequence of the most credible worst-case scenario associated with the risk of infection with COVID-19
  • The likelihood of transmitted infection occurring and it leading to that consequence.

Information on the Ministry of Health website may provide support with this assessment.

Assess risks and mitigations to determine residual risk

For each work type identified, the following questions must be considered:

  • What is the inherent risk to the community and to agency workers (as assessed in the previous step)?
  • What is the residual risk with current proactive controls (such as barriers, masks, handwashing, social distancing, remote working and rapid antigen tests)? 
  • Does being vaccinated materially reduce residual risk after current proactive controls are taken into account?
  • If all workers who work in that area were vaccinated, what would the effect be on the risk rating?

Further reading: COVID controls for work health and safety reasons, including employer vaccination requirements (Link).

Determine what is reasonably practical

The level of residual risk and what is reasonably practical in terms of managing the risk can then be considered, in discussion with workers and their representatives.

Stage two - Determine if unvaccinated workers can continue to be present in the agency’s workplaces and develop a draft vaccination policy

Based on the risk assessment, agencies should determine if there is any work that must only be done by vaccinated workers, what work can be done by unvaccinated workers, with or without other reasonably practicable risk mitigations, and from this, develop a draft vaccination policy. The policy should include a timeframe and implementation plan for bringing the policy, or any changes to an existing policy, into effect.

Further reading: Other reasons for requiring vaccination of workers (Link)

Aligning vaccination policy and business continuity planning

If the draft policy or policy review includes that some or all work must be done by vaccinated workers, this may support the agency’s business continuity plan. Take this into account when considering reasonable timeframes for the implementation of the policy.

Stage three – Consult workers and unions on draft vaccination policy

As set out in the Health and Safety at Work Act, workers, unions, and health and safety representatives should be engaged throughout the health and safety risk assessment process and the development of a draft policy (stages one and two). At stage three, the agency must consult formally with workers.

Stage four – Finalise and implement vaccination policy

To support implementation of the vaccination policy, agencies must determine if they need to understand the vaccination status of their employees to meet their health and safety obligations to employees and people who come onto their premises.

Understanding vaccination status of workers

Agencies may need to require employees to disclose their vaccination status. For example, this could be if the vaccination policy, informed by the risk assessment process, determines that some or all work in the agency requires vaccination, or where the information is material to a Health & Safety plan. In line with the Privacy Commissioner’s advice, agencies can then ask employees for this information.

When collecting information on vaccination status, agencies must advise employees of the purpose for which it is being collected and how it will be stored. Employees do not have to provide the information, but they must be advised that not providing the information will result in the agency presuming them to be unvaccinated and the consequences of this.

Collecting and storing information on vaccination status

Be aware that vaccination status is personal information and collecting, storing and sharing information about vaccination status must be done in accordance with advice from the Privacy Commissioner. This includes how requests from workers to know the vaccination status of other workers are handled. Agencies need to be mindful of privacy requirements when implementing the outcome of individual discussions with unvaccinated workers.

Agencies need to establish a process for collecting information on vaccination status and how they will store the information in a way that meets privacy and confidentiality requirements.

Evidence of vaccination

Agencies should run educative sessions for workers who are required to be vaccinated on how to obtain evidence of their vaccination status – work through the process provided on the My Covid Record website. They will need an email address or RealMe account.

Where the assessment results in a decision that workers must be vaccinated to work in the workplace, agencies should turn their minds to what evidence of vaccination they require.

My COVID Record is the strongest level of evidence but does require agencies to have robust privacy systems in place to collect, store and process the proof of vaccination.

Applications for medical exemptions, other than the ones contemplated by Director-General of Health will require particular consideration. Ministry of Health advice on  medical exemptions can be found here.

Employees may raise other objections to vaccination, which may lead to exemptions from the vaccination policy.

Implementing the vaccination policy - options and outcomes for employees who are not vaccinated

Once the agency has information on the vaccination status of employees in roles where the policy requires vaccination, agencies should engage directly with unvaccinated employees.

Agencies should arrange an individual conversation with each employee who is not vaccinated or boosted (if applicable) or has not provided their vaccination status. These conversations should be handled sensitively and should identify and acknowledge the personal circumstances of the individual including any objections that the individual may have due to their religious beliefs or other grounds under the Human Rights Act. It is important that the conversation is initiated in sufficient time that the employee has the opportunity to meet the vaccination requirement by the implementation date.

Remind employees of their right to be supported by a union representative or support person of their choice for this conversation.

The purpose of the conversation is to:

  • Discuss in good faith the assessment that shows the employee’s role includes work that the vaccination policy has determined needs to be done only by vaccinated (or vaccinated and boosted) workers
  • Outline the timeframe by which the work will only be undertaken by vaccinated (and boosted) employees
  • Offer an opportunity for the employee to provide feedback on the assessment and timeframe
  • Offer further support to be vaccinated or boosted including assurance that any time required to get the vaccine and deal with after-effects will be paid time
  • Outline the consequences if they do not meet the deadline for a second dose of the vaccine (or booster, as applicable)
  • Explore alternative options, some of which may have been considered at stage two of the assessment, such as:
    • Any reasonably practicable risk mitigations, other than vaccination, that reduce the risk to the health and safety of other people
    • Changes to how the employee carries out the work, including working from home, bubble of one or other altered working arrangements
    • Changes to the employee’s role (including location at which work is performed) to ensure it does not include work that could put others at risk
    • Leave without pay
    • Agreed redeployment to suitable alternative duties.

Ensure the employee has the opportunity to respond to any proposed changes. Agencies must take any feedback into consideration and look for solutions that address the employee’s concerns. 

If an employee does not meet the deadline for receiving the vaccine as specified in the policy, consider options such as working from home or a form of agreed leave (such as annual leave or leave without pay) as you work through options to resolve the situation.

Allow sufficient time to explore reasonable options in good faith. Termination should only be considered as a last resort. Where this is necessary, ensure the employee receives four weeks’ (or the notice period of their employment agreement if more than four weeks) paid notice of termination.

Stage five – Review risk assessment and vaccination policy

As the environment and circumstances are dynamic, the risk assessment should be reviewed in light of any changes in public health advice, availability of vaccination types and boosters, changes to the workforces covered by mandatory orders and the use of testing and other measures.

A review of the risk assessment and vaccination policy no later than three months after implementation would be prudent.

Frequently Asked Questions

What risk assessment process and framework should agencies use?

The Commission's guidance includes a four-step  health and safety risk assessment process including an example risk assessment tool. Please note that MBIE and Worksafe have updated their guidance following the changes to the My Vaccine Pass and vaccination requirements effective 4 April 2022, and their vaccination assessment tool (VAT) is being withdrawn

Can agencies put in place additional measures to those required under the protection framework?

Yes, if an agency identifies through a health and safety risk assessment process that other measures are required to mitigate risks, has taken H&S and legal advice to ensure they are proportionate, appropriate and do not infringe upon a person’s rights, and has engaged with employees and their representatives in good faith prior to the introduction of such measures

Does an employee have to tell the employer their vaccination status?

An employee does not have to provide vaccination status information. However, agencies should ensure employees are aware of any consequences of not providing the information, according to the current vaccination policy.

Is working permanently at home an alternative for unvaccinated employees whose workplace requires employees to be fully vaccinated?

The employer may consider an employee working from home to allow sufficient time to explore reasonable options and mitigate the health and safety risk to other people. In determining whether permanently working from home is a suitable option, employers will need to take into consideration whether the employee can carry out the full duties and responsibilities of their role and to the same level as they would in their normal place of work on an ongoing basis.

If an employee is not fully vaccinated can their employment be terminated?

This will depend on the agency’s vaccination policy. Termination should only occur once all reasonable alternatives have been exhausted.

If there are no suitable working alternatives for an employee who is not vaccinated and whose role includes work that can only be done safely by a vaccinated employee, are they eligible for a redundancy payment?

Termination of employment should only occur once all reasonable alternatives have been exhausted. If at the conclusion of a good faith discussion with an employee, an employer determines that there is no alternative to terminating employment of an employee who is not vaccinated, the agency should ensure the employee receives four weeks’ (or the notice period in their employment agreement if more than four weeks) paid notice of termination.

Do we need to re-hire staff who were dismissed following the implementation of a vaccination mandate or policy?

No, you do not have to re-hire or offer positions to those who have been dismissed. Re-employment should only occur when a vacancy occurs, and has been advertised following the requirements of the Public Service Act 2020, if applicable. If the mandate has been withdrawn, and the agency’s vaccination policy does not require vaccination for the role, then the application should be considered with any other applications.

Can an agency employ overseas workers under the COVID-19 Protection Framework?

Yes. More information on the criteria for overseas people needing a My Vaccine Pass can be found here

We have received an application from a staff member who wishes to move overseas and continue to work remotely. How do we treat their request?

Agencies are advised to treat such applications as they would any other work from home request, noting some roles are unable to be performed outside of the office. Also, the agency may wish to consider any tax implications or IT security implications of their employee remote working overseas and are advised to seek their own legal advice on this matter. In this situation, the cost of attending required on site meetings etc should sit with the employee.

How do we treat staff who have contracted COVID-19 and are away from home on business?

Different Phases of the CPF carry different risk profiles. For example, at Green Phase travel is expected to be unrestricted, but at Red travel for business should be kept to a minimum and for essential site visits only, with virtual meetings being preferred. If the travel is undertaken, then good infection mitigation measures should be maintained. Where an employee is undertaking approved travel, agencies should ensure that the employee is supported (including with reasonable costs), if they are required to self-isolate and cannot return to their home. The further advice is available here.

If an employee travels overseas on a private trip and is required to isolate on return and cannot work remotely while isolating, are they entitled to special paid leave while isolating?

It is recommended that employees discuss with their employer any plans to travel overseas on a private trip, and agencies communicate their expectations if the employee is required on health advice to self-isolate away from their residence.

In the event that an employee is required to isolate, then the usual guidance applies –the employee should work from the place of isolation if possible.

If an employee could undertake work remotely but has not taken reasonable steps to be able to work in their place of isolation (such as not taking laptop and/or phone with them), then an employer can determine that they are not entitled to special leave.

If remote working is not possible, they would not be entitled to special paid leave in the event of isolation and that should be communicated to the employee prior to their travel.

It is recommended that employees discuss with their employer any plans to travel overseas on a private trip, and whether remote working would be possible in the event of isolation.

How do we treat staff who have contracted COVID-19 but have run out of sick pay?

Agencies are advised to follow their existing sick and dependant leave policies, or, in the absence of a policy position on exhausting sick or dependant leave, to treat such leave as discretionary sick leave. We recommend that agencies establish an agency wide policy, rather than leave it to manager discretion, and that agencies look to take a generous approach to their existing guidance. Please note this is an emerging situation and updated advice may be offered.

What happens if a worker tests positive for COVID-19? Do I need to contact trace?

Guidance for workplaces that have a case of COVID-19 can be found here. The country has now moved away from a central model of contact tracing, and moved to one where individual are responsible for identifying and getting in touch with their contacts. Agencies may choose to undertake contact tracing of potential close contacts in the workplace, if they consider it is useful, for example, to maintain business continuity. However, this is not a requirement, and does not need to be reported to health officials. Ministry of Health will shortly be updating Guidance for workplaces to reflect this.

My employee refuses to come into the office, what do I do

It depends on the individual circumstances of the agency, the employee and their substantive role, and what mitigations could be reasonably considered. Please refer to PSC’s workforce guidance, in the Vaccination Guidance section here

How do I manage Long covid in my employees

Most people who contract COVID-19 recover completely. However, there are some who may have symptoms that continue or develop 4 weeks following the initial infection. This is known as ‘Long COVID’.

It is recommended that agencies treat cases of Long COVID amongst their employees in the same way they would respond to any employee with a long-term illness, in accordance with their employment agreement.

Can I record my employees’ vaccination status?

In some circumstances, such as when a vaccination requirement is in place, yes. Please refer to PSC’s workforce guidance, in the Appendix One, Stage Four here

What are the requirements for holding events and gatherings under the new traffic light system?

Information on events and gatherings can be found here, under the Traffic Lights tab.

Workplaces are not gatherings or events.

What do I do if one of my employees presents a face mask exemption card, but there are mask requirements in place?

Holding a valid mask exemption card means a person who is unable to wear a mask can still work within settings that require masks. However, organisations are legally required to mitigate, as far as is reasonably practicable, the risks of spreading COVID-19 that arise if workers are unable to wear a face covering or a medical-grade face covering in these circumstances. Agencies and their employees are recommended to work together in good faith to find an appropriate solution, which may mean changes to shifts, duties, and operations generally within reason. Further information on face masks can be found here, and existing reasons for mask exemptions here

Should I record that my employee has a mask exemption card?

If the employee is exempt, they may choose to voluntarily disclose their status to avoid confusion, and if agencies choose to collect, process and store that status then it must be done in a manner that is in accordance with privacy principles. Agencies should be mindful of people’s privacy and of the fact that people may have genuine reasons for not being able to wear a mask, which may not be obvious or immediately visible.

Where can I find information from trusted sources on COVID-19 and workplace safety?

The Ministry of Health and Government Health and Safety Lead’s website provide useful information for staff.

What websites should we be monitoring and using when making informed decisions?

The following links cover a range of important information for agencies:

Last modified: