Government announces COVID-19 workplace vaccination legislation

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The Government has announced its intention to introduce new legislation to guide decisions on what work needs vaccination.

To align with the recently announced COVID-19 Protection Framework, the Government will mandate vaccinations for workers at businesses where customers need to show COVID-19 Vaccination Certificates, such as hospitality and close-contact businesses. The Government is continuing to work with business and unions on when this mandate will come into effect, which will likely be by the end of November.

For businesses where a Government vaccine mandate is not in place, the law will include a risk assessment process for employers to follow when deciding whether they can require vaccination for different types of work. This will cover factors like who workers interact with during their work days and how close that contact is, as well as ensuring our critical infrastructure and lifeline utilities can continue even if there has been exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace. This risk assessment will build on guidance already provided by WorkSafe.

How to decide what work requires a vaccinated employee – WorkSafe (external link)

The legislation will also include provisions for paid time off for employees to get vaccinated, helping raise workplace vaccination rates.

If an employee chooses not to get vaccinated for work that requires it, employment law will still apply. Employees and employers must continue to deal in good faith. Employers must still consider all reasonable alternatives, such as finding other work within the business that does not require vaccination.

The law change will introduce four weeks’ paid notice for any employee who has their job terminated because they are not vaccinated, and whose job requires it.

The legislation is expected to come into effect in December and further guidance will be published before then.

While the proposed legislation is not yet in effect, you can start assessing your workplace and vaccination requirement options using the guidance provided by WorkSafe. Just like with health and safety assessments, employers will have to consult workers and their representatives when using this risk assessment process.

Vaccines and the workplace

This information has been sourced from the Employment New Zealand website:
www.employment.govt.nz

COVID-19: Answering your difficult employment questions

Employment New Zealand has issued information about employment rights and responsibilities to employers setting our answers to frequently asked questions. We thought this was useful information that you might find helpful.

Note: This information is meant to provide general assistance to businesses and workers. Should you require legal advice, please contact Stephens Lawyers.

As an employer, can I pay staff less than their normal wages during COVID-19?

Employment law still applies to all employment relationships, regardless of the circumstances that we find ourselves in, including different alert levels during COVID-19. This means you can only reduce employees’ wages if they agree to it, after a discussion in good faith.

As an employer, you need to keep paying your employees at all alert levels, whether they are continuing to work at their usual place of work or from home, or if they are not able to work because of alert levels.

Employees should be paid their wages as set out in their employment agreement. If an employee has an employment agreement with minimum hours but has been working for more than the minimum hours for some time, you need to calculate their pay according to the number of hours that they have been working, rather than the minimum hours in their employment agreement.

The Wage Subsidy can be used to help pay their wages. You can only reduce how much you pay your employees if the employee has agreed to receive lower pay. This means that if they don’t agree to it, you will need to pay their normal pay, even if this is higher than what you received from the Wage Subsidy.

If you have money left over from the Wage Subsidy, for example, if an employee no longer works for you, you can use their remaining subsidy to pay other affected employees. If there are no other employees to use the subsidy for, then the remainder must be paid back.

If your employees cannot work normally and your business is struggling to meet its costs, the best thing you can do is to talk to your employees in good faith, explain to them your business’ financial situation and talk about what options are available to you and them, and agree to any changes. If your business has unionised employees, make sure that you involve the union in discussions relating to any changes.

There are other financial support schemes available to help you pay wages during this time. For example, the Leave Support Scheme can help you pay employees who have to self-isolate, even if you don’t qualify for the wage subsidy.

For further information about applying for the Wage Subsidy, visit the Work and Income website if you have questions relating to the wage subsidies, including how much you get, what the criteria are and how to apply. See Wage Subsidy.

 

Can I make my employees take annual leave or sick leave to help complement their wages?

At each alert level, employers and employees should first discuss whether the employee can work normally, how much work is available, and how to work safely at home or their usual place of work.

During any alert levels, employers cannot make employees take:

  • sick leave, if the employee is not sick,
  • advanced annual leave,
  • annual leave, without giving at least 14 days’ notice (unless the employee agrees to take annual leave, after a discussion in good faith).

If an employee can’t come to work because they have been told to self-isolate by the National Contact Tracing process or by a Health official, and they can’t work from home, the Leave Support Scheme is available to help pay their wages.

For more information, see Leave Support Scheme and Leave & Pay During COVID-19.


Can I ask my workers to pay for their own masks during COVID-19?

You are responsible for your workers’ health and safety at work. You must provide all appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), and make sure they use, wear and maintain the required PPE. This includes face coverings when required to do so under COVID-19 rules.

Remember, face coverings required by COVID-19 rules and PPE required by health and safety at work law are different.

You cannot pass on the cost of providing PPE (in full or part) to the worker. You cannot make the worker provide their own PPE as a condition of employment.

For more information, see PPE Guide for Businesses and Contact Record Rule & Face Coverings.

 

Can I require that my workers get vaccinated for COVID-19?

Businesses cannot make individuals be vaccinated. However, businesses can require that certain work must only be done by vaccinated workers, where there is a high risk of contracting and transmitting COVID-19 to others. The Government has also specified that certain work can only be performed by vaccinated workers.

For a business to decide that work is high risk and therefore needs vaccination for health and safety reasons, the business must first assess their COVID-19 exposure risk. This applies to work done by all workers, whether employees or independent contractors.

The COVID-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Order 2021 provides details of which work the Government has specified can only be performed by vaccinated workers.

For further information, see COVID-19 Vaccination & Employment.

Wellington to host World Premiere of Anthology Film ‘Encounters’

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Wellington-shot anthology film to premiere at Embassy Theatre and OnDemand on
3 March 2021

Oneshot Collective has announced that Wellington’s Embassy Theatre will host the world premiere of its anthology feature film Encounters on Wednesday, 3 March 2021, releasing the trailer for the film last week. After a one-night-only chance to see the Wellington-shot film on the big screen, the film will be available to rent or buy OnDemand following the screening.

Encounters is a collaboratively made anthology feature film that interweaves eight tales of love, life and death. Eight emerging New Zealand directors and a diverse cast and crew came together to tell this collection of delightful, disturbing, romantic and rebellious stories.

With a 50-50 gender split in filmmaking voices, the multi-genre film was independently made and shot throughout the Wellington region. Produced through Oneshot Collective, Encounters is collaborative, independent filmmaking for a new generation of emerging New Zealand screen talent. Work started on the project in mid-2014, with the intention of encouraging collaboration and providing opportunities for emerging screen talent to gain experience outside the realm of short films.

The cast includes a number of familiar faces including Siobhan Marshall (Pork Pie/Outrageous Fortune), Cohen Holloway (Bellbird/Hunt for the Wilderpeople/What We Do in the Shadows), Sophie Hambleton (Westside), Neenah Dekkers-Reihana (Waru), Rachel Roberts (The Rehearsal), Brynley Stent (Funny Girls) and more. The lineup of collaborating directors includes: Jane Fletcher, Constance Gervasi, Chaz Harris, Bea Joblin, Sina Leasuasu, Conan McKegg, Luke McMeeken Ruscoe and Scott Milligan.

“With the increased competition in short filmmaking and its lack of financial viability, we felt that working together to create a feature would prove a better path for platforming emerging talent in Aotearoa,” says Chaz Harris, who served as Producer on the film in addition to his role as a collaborating writer/director.

Encounters had a huge impact on my career,” says fellow Producer, Lead Editor and collaborating filmmaker Scott Milligan. “It led to my being recommended for a crew role on Ghost in the Shell, and provided me with key experience I’ve been able to leverage in securing further roles as an Editor and Assistant Editor since.”

Producer Anita Ross adds, “This film has been such a marathon and I’m very proud that we’ve been able to reach the finish line to release it into the world. Every independent filmmaker who has made a feature knows the workload involved in reaching this point, so we’re looking forward to celebrating that!”

Encounters will have its world premiere on 3 March 2021 at Wellington’s Embassy Theatre before being globally available to rent or buy OnDemand. Tickets are available through iTicket and more information is can be found at: encounters.co.nz

ENDS

 

Government intends doubling employee’s sick leave to 10 days per year

Hon Michael Wood, Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety

Hon Michael Wood, Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Government introduced the Holidays (Increasing Sick Leave) Amendment Bill to the House on 1 December 2020. The Bill would, if it became law, increase paid sick leave for all employees to 10 days per year.

The Bill is consistent with the Government’s pre-election promise to double employees’ entitlement to sick leave. Under current legislation, employees are entitled to five days’ paid sick leave, once they have worked for the same employer for six months.

As it currently stands, the Bill retains the maximum amount of unused sick leave an employee can carry over at 20 days a year.

Select Committee submissions are now open on the Bill and close on 28 January 2021,  and the Bill is expected to pass in mid-2021 with any changes coming into force two months after receiving Royal assent.

If you have any questions relating to the proposed legislation and how it may impact your organisation, please contact Stephens Lawyers.

Season’s Greetings from the Stephens Lawyers team: we wish you well for 2021 and trust you have a happy and relaxing break over the festive season.

Privacy Act 2020 comes into effect on 1 December 2020

Privacy Act imageThe Privacy Act 2020 which was passed earlier this year, comes into effect on 1 December 2020.

The new Act replaces the Privacy Act 1993 and includes a number of significant changes, including:

  • Mandatory notification of harmful privacy breaches. If organisations or businesses have a privacy breach that poses a risk of serious harm, they are required to notify the Privacy Commissioner and affected parties. This change brings New Zealand in line with international best practice.
  • Introduction of compliance orders. The Commissioner may issue compliance notices to require compliance with the Privacy Act. Failure to follow a compliance notice could result in a fine of up to $10,000.
  • Binding access determinations. If an organisation or business refuses to make personal information available upon request, the Commissioner will have the power to demand release.
  • Controls on the disclosure of information overseas. Before disclosing New Zealanders’ personal information overseas, New Zealand organisations or businesses will need to ensure those overseas entities have similar levels of privacy protection to those in New Zealand.
  • New criminal offences. It will be an offence to mislead an organisation or business in a way that affects someone’s personal information or to destroy personal information if a request has been made for it. The maximum fine for these offences is $10,000.
  • Explicit application to businesses whether or not they have a legal or physical presence in New Zealand. If an international digital platform is carrying on business in New Zealand, with the New Zealanders’ personal information, there will be no question that they will be obliged to comply with New Zealand law regardless of where they, or their servers are based.

Further information is available on the Office of the Privacy Commissioner website, see: privacy.org.nz/

If you have any questions relating to the new Privacy Act and how it may impact your Society, please contact Stephens Lawyers.

 

Urban Art Foundation’s ‘City of Sculpture’ exhibition goes live

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Stephens Lawyers is a proud supporter of the Urban Art Foundation.

Ten of New Zealand’s foremost sculptors have their works featured in the Urban Art Foundation’s latest exhibition – City of Sculpture. This is Andrew Drummond’s “Tower of Light” created in 2005. Presented in partnership with the Wellington Sculpture Trust, the exhibition is appearing in Mall and street locations in Auckland, Hamilton, Bay of Plenty, Christchurch and Wellington over the next six weeks.

Coronavirus/Covid-19

During these challenging times, we remain committed to providing our normal high level of service to you.

We know that people are concerned about coronavirus and want to let you know what we are doing to manage the risk in our workplace for our staff and visitors.

The team at Stephens Lawyers are taking all necessary precautions to ensure we can remain accessible and able to continue to work with you.

We are still meeting with clients in our offices but are asking visitors to not come in if they are feeling unwell, or other risk factors apply.

If this applies to you, or if you would prefer a virtual meeting, please let us know when making an appointment.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.

Michael Stephens