Employee rights and COVID-19 vaccinations – your questions answered

Shine Lawyers New Zealand - Right Wrong

The pandemic has dramatically changed the way businesses and organisations operate in line with the Government health advice and vaccine mandates. Our Employment Law legal experts have compiled a list of common questions to help people understand their employee rights and what their employers can legally request from them when it comes to vaccinations and the workplace.

Read on to find out more. 

Can my employer force me to get vaccinated?

Depending on the industry or business you work in, employers can enforce requirements for their employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, as per the Government mandates.  

These specific sectors and industries include:  

  • Border and managed isolation and quarantine facilities  
  • Health and disability  
  • Education  
  • Prison facilities  
  • Food and drink (Excluding businesses operating solely as takeaways) 
  • Close proximity services (those that cannot be done with less than one metre between people)
  • Events management
  • New Zealand Police and Defence Force.  

Outside of Government vaccination mandates, employers can assess whether specific work within their workplace requires vaccination by completing a health and safety risk assessment. 

Can my employer ask me for my vaccination information?

Your employer cannot ask you for your vaccination status, however, if you choose not to disclose, then they may assume you are unvaccinated. 

Employers can only collect information about their employees vaccination status for a lawful purpose. 

An example of a ‘lawful purpose’ might be: 

  • where work can only be done by a vaccinated worker under a government mandate 
  • for health and safety reasons,  
  • to meet a vaccination requirement imposed by a third party.  

What about job interviews?

During an interview, employers can only ask you for proof of vaccination if the role is covered by the Government mandate or if the employer has decided that specific role requires vaccination.  

Your employer is obligated under the Privacy Act 2020 to take reasonable steps to make sure information about your vaccination status is collected, stored, and used correctly. 

Can my employer make me return to the workplace?

Provided it is considered safe to do so based on current public health advice, your employer can ask you to return to the workplace if do not have a current ‘alternative work arrangements’ agreement in place.  

Can I take time off work to get vaccinated?

If you are unable to book in for a COVID-19 jab outside of work hours, you are entitled to reasonable paid leave, so long as it does not unreasonably disrupt the business or your performance at work.  

If you do need time off work for a COVID-19 vaccine, we recommend speaking with your employer to determine a time and date that works for both.  

Make sure you let your employer know how much time you expect to take off, including travel time.  

My contract has changed – what do I do now?

If your employment contract has unfairly changed due to your choice to not be vaccinated in a role that vaccination is not required for, or you have evidence that you are being discriminated against at work due to your vaccination status, contact our expert employment lawyers today to understand your employee rights.

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