Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Employment lawyer says employers should start a conversation with vaccine-hesitant staff

An employment lawyer says the time before mandatory vaccinations are required for health and education staff is an opportunity for employers to start a conversation with hesitant staff before rushing into re-employment.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins, who is also the Education Minister, revealed on Monday Cabinet’s decision on mandatory vaccinations for workers in the education and healthcare sectors.

Healthcare workers will have to be fully vaccinated by December 1 this year, and will need to have had their first dose by October 30.

All staff at schools and ECEs who have contact with children and students will need to have a first dose by November 15, and to be fully vaccinated by January 1.

Wellington employment lawyer Steph Dyhrberg said she has received a number of enquiries around what employers can ask for and do regarding staff vaccination.

She believes this announcement will help provide people with some “clarity”.

“So for a couple of big essential service sets of employers to be able to require this and have some clarity on this, I think it will be really helpful and hugely encouraging for the effort to get people vaccinated,” she said.

She said the decision, which comes after a recent case where a frontline border worker refused to get vaccinated, would help give some guidance on what employers could insist on.

“At this stage until the higher court says otherwise we’ve good guidance that says ‘look this is a justifiable limit on otherwise individual freedoms’.”

Dyhrberg said this time before the vaccine mandate comes into place should be used toopen a conversation between employers and hesitant staff. Discussions on re-employment should take place before considering a termination of employment.

“We are not going to be able to magic up hundreds of teachers and thousands of health workers, so the more work that employers in the sector and all of the unions and everyone does to try and bring people along with them, try to persuade and explain, the better.”

Dyhrberg said it was better to try and “bring them along on the journey” than simply telling staff “that’s the law”.

“Just because it’s now going to become law, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be talking to people.

“Have information sessions and provide really clear easy-to-understand information to people.”

Director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said he has a high level of confidence that health staff will get vaccinated, particularly those in isolated communities.

Dyhrberg said many workers in these sectors are already at a disadvantage, she would hate to see struggling sectors lose more staff.

Where to get a vaccination in Auckland – without a booking

“Some of these people are already disadvantaged in different ways, so I mean the last thing I want to see particularly women of colour and immigrant women and poor women feel like they’re not going to have a job.”

The Ministry of Education will work closely with smaller schools in isolated communities, Hipkins said. Those in rural areas were just as at risk as people living in cities, and that was a message that would be pushed in schools.

Hipkins said the ministry was used to supporting schools that have short-term staffing needs, and will continue to do that.

However, Dyhrberg said it is important to remember hesitant staff are not behaving the way they are because they “do not care” about others.

“Their idea of protecting their families, doing the right thing and showing love is different from what I would do,” Dyhrberg said

The Government was still considering whether mandatory vaccinations will be required in the tertiary education sector.

Source: Read Full Article