As the COVID-19 vaccination roll-out begins to ramp up across New Zealand, employers and employees alike are faced with important and complex questions about the relationship between the need to ensure the workplace is safe for all workers and the individual rights of workers to refuse medical treatment including vaccinations.
The New Zealand Government has not made the requirement to be vaccinated against COVID-19 mandatory, although it is strongly encouraging New Zealanders to take the vaccine as it becomes available. So, in the workplace, particularly those where workers could be exposed to a higher risk of COVID-19 infection, employment relationships and issues about vaccination will have to be carefully managed.
Because the circumstances are continually evolving, there is some uncertainty about the legal position regarding employers requiring employee vaccinations. However, in most situations requiring vaccination is unlikely to be lawful. This article discusses the potential tension between the competing interests of employers and employees and the obligations of both parties.
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By Melissa Hu-Davidson, Solicitor