On Tuesday 23rd November the Government finally announced the rules around vaccine passes and vaccine mandates for workers under the new “traffic light” system (click here for an explanation) and here for how it affects all food and beverage workplaces.
All Food and Beverage hospitality workers will now have to have had at least a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine by Friday 3rd December. The second dose must be completed by 17th January 2022.
Most employers have already asked employees to confirm their vaccination status. You do not need to tell your employer about your vaccination status if you do not want to, but the law allows them to treat employees and customers who refuse to say as if they are unvaccinated. If you are being pressured or threatened to reveal your status get in contact with us - but your employer is entitled to ask and will treat you as if you are unvaccinated if you do not tell them.
If you are vaccinated or will be vaccinated (at least one dose) by 3rd December
If you are now, or will be, vaccinated by December 3rd our advice is to tell your employer as soon as possible. It will save you a lot of hassle. If you have had two doses you should get a vaccine pass now so you have proof ready when needed. You can also get a record of your vaccination on that site, even if you have had only one dose.
Remember that full protection from Covid takes at least two weeks after your second dose - so the sooner the better. Vaccine passes are only available to those who have had two doses so, if you want to avoid these restrictions over Xmas and New Year, get your shots now. The list of places you can get vaccinated is here.
Unite is currently consulting with members about related health and safety issues - like aggressive or violent customers who get refused service. Your employer has a responsibility to keep you safe from all of these threats, as well as form covid.
If you are not vaccinated and won't be vaccinated (at least one dose) by 3rd December
The obvious solution
Firstly, Unite’s advice is to get vaccinated, for yourself, your workmates, your whanau and friends (especially children who can’t be vaccinated and vulnerable people with high health risks - eg asthma, diabetes, lowered immune systems). The vaccines work very well for most people - especially for reducing severe illness and death, but they are not 100% effective (the same as for other vaccines we use). That means unvaccinated children and the vulnerable are relying on the rest of us to reduce the spread and the burden on our hospitals by getting vaccinated. For more information on reasons to get vaccinated click here.
There is also a long list of restrictions (growing longer every day) that unvaccinated people will face under the new traffic light system - from entertainment, hospitality, education, shopping, sports and social activities. Click here for the latest updated info on these restrictions. The difficulty for unvaccinated workers finding a new job is of great concern as most employers will be asking applicants this question - even if the job doesn’t currently require vaccination.
Support getting vaccinated
Your employer must now give you paid time off to get vaccinated if needed. The AstraZeneca vaccine will be available if you have specific concerns about the Pfizer vaccine. Contact us if you need any additional help or advice to get vaccinated. The list of places you can get vaccinated is here.
Vaccine medical exemptions are going to be very rare and need to follow a specific process. Any “exemption” that you have now or have been told may be valid is almost certainly not. A Ministry of Health Exemption Panel is being set up to approve or decline applications and that is the only way a medical exemption will be valid. Any application will need to be made with the support of a GP or Nurse Practitioner before it goes to the panel. Anyone who medically cannot receive the Pfizer vaccine will be offered the AstraZeneca vaccine instead.
If you decide still not to get vaccinated
Unite has already worked through this process with MIQ hotel workers and Health Board workers. The hard reality is that unvaccinated workers will lose their job if they remain unvaccinated. There is nothing unions, lawyers or anyone else can do to prevent that. The previous vaccine mandates for border workers, education and health workers have been tested in the highest courts in the land and upheld. Unite will support unvaccinated members through the process, but we won’t (and can’t) challenge the law and your employer's need to implement that law.
Termination of Employment
Unvaccinated employees will not be allowed to work in hospitality from Friday 3rd December. They can have their employment terminated legally, but they must be given at least 4 weeks paid notice. Workers may be able to change their mind during that 4 weeks and return to work if they do get vaccinated, but employers can refuse for business reasons - which often apply in hospitality over the busy xmas and new year period.
If you are a Unite member and need any further advice or help please contact us - either by reply email or by contacting your organiser.