NZNO considers that health employees who do not get vaccinated and are not exempt for medical reasons potentially run the risk of losing their jobs. The risk is even greater for workers covered by the mandatory vaccination order/s.
NZNO will work with employers and affected workers to ensure that those who cannot be vaccinated for a verified health exemption or choose not to be vaccinated for other reasons are offered reasonable information about vaccination and their options, and offered redeployment opportunities, if possible, to roles that have not been identified as vaccine essential. That could include a change of your role, hours of work or location.
However, it may be that if employees decline vaccination, and cannot be redeployed, employment in the existing role or with that employer is no longer appropriate.
Each case will need to be assessed on its own facts in deciding whether there are viable options to remain employed or whether termination of employment could be justifiable.
In addition, employers must still undertake a reasonable process when engaging with unvaccinated employees when encouraging those employees to be vaccinated and deciding on what consequences may flow from an employee not being vaccinated.
Employers must always be able to justify a dismissal and act fairly, reasonably and conduct any process in good faith.
A dismissal for a failure or refusal to be vaccinated is not necessarily an ‘at fault’ dismissal. Therefore, disciplinary meetings, warnings and other similar processes may not be appropriate as it is a change in the requirement of the role that may lead to the end of the employment. Meetings to discuss the issues for individual workers with their union’s support and employers clearly setting out their requirements and reasonable timeframes are likely to be part of a fair process.
However, for roles in health where an employer is bound by the mandatory vaccine order or has made a reasonable risk assessment and decided a role must be undertaken by a vaccinated person, a refusal to be vaccinated might be characterised as a failure to follow a reasonable and lawful instruction, in which case the usual fair dismissal processes should be adhered to.
Please also see the CTU COVID Response Policy.