COVID-19 vaccination and employment

COVID-19 vaccines will play a critical role in protecting the health and wellbeing of people in New Zealand. Over time, this will enable our social, economic and cultural recovery.

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Workplaces are a crucial part of making access to vaccines as easy as possible.

Information for all working relationships

The following information applies to all working relationships, including those between a firm and an independent contractor.

  • To help New Zealand’s COVID-19 Immunisation Programme succeed, we recommend employers encourage and support workers to get vaccinated. This could include:
    • facilitating on-site vaccinations
    • allowing workers to get vaccinated during work hours without loss of pay, and
    • providing workers with relevant and timely information from the Ministry of Health about vaccination and its benefits. 

COVID-19 Immunisation Programme – Ministry of Health (external link)

  • Employers should engage early and constructively with workers and unions when considering vaccination issues at their workplace.
  • Workers do not have to tell their employer if they have been vaccinated or why they are unable or choose not to be vaccinated. If workers have consented, the Ministry of Health can inform employers whether Group 1 workers have been vaccinated. Employers can ask workers if they have been vaccinated. If workers do not tell employers what their vaccination status is, employers may assume workers are unvaccinated, but should first inform workers of this assumption. Employers must protect personal information about vaccination status and cannot share it (including with other workers) without a worker’s consent.

    Covid-19: Getting a vaccine – Ministry of Health (external link)
  • Employers and workers can access support from MBIE’s Early Resolution Service to resolve employment problems early and informally.

    Early Resolution Service

Information for employment relationships

The following information is specifically for employment relationships. 

  • All discussions between employers, workers and unions about COVID-19 vaccination must be done in good faith.
  • We encourage employers to offer paid work time for employees to be vaccinated.
  • Following a health and safety risk assessment, if a particular role requires vaccination:
    • Employers can make changes to an employee’s duties for health and safety reasons, if an employee is not vaccinated. Any such process must be fair and reasonable, and carried out in good faith. Employers must avoid unfair disadvantage. Employers, in consultation with employees, must consider options, such as changing work arrangements, alternative duties or leave. If leave is used, this must be agreed, and we encourage this be paid. Employers and employees may agree to a negotiated end of employment, but individual dismissals are unlikely to be justifiable in almost all cases, based on current circumstances.
    • Employers and employees can negotiate variations to existing conditions of employment to require vaccination. Employers can also require vaccination as a condition for new employees, but this must be reasonable for the role. Employers must follow good faith processes under existing employment agreements (individual or collective) and contracts to make any changes to them.

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Page last revised: 08 April 2021

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