My Vaccine Pass mandate catches churches, businesses by surprise

Author
RNZ,
Publish Date
Wed, 24 Nov 2021, 12:16PM
(Photo / Getty Images)
(Photo / Getty Images)

My Vaccine Pass mandate catches churches, businesses by surprise

Author
RNZ,
Publish Date
Wed, 24 Nov 2021, 12:16PM

By - RNZ

People working in sectors that require a vaccine pass must have their first inoculation by Friday week. 

That's 10 days' notice for hospitality, close contact businesses, gyms, events and gatherings. 

Affected businesses have been encouraged to download the Ministry of Health's NZ Pass Verifier App, which allows businesses to scan and verify their customers' My Vaccine Pass or vaccine certificate. 

Businesses which fall under the new mandate and fail to enforce vaccine passes will face fines of up to $15,000. 

The mandate, which comes into effect on December 3, includes religious leaders - something that has caught some churches by surprise. 

The Auckland Church Leaders Group represents 45 churches in the region, and convenor Jonathan Dove said the mandate for church staff came as a shock. 

He said not all would be fully vaccinated. 

"Like the rest of New Zealand church leaders aren't all singing from the same songsheet when it comes to political views and vaccines or responses to Covid but certainly the vast majority of church leaders have been co-operating with government health measures, that they are vaccinated." 

Dove said church leaders want to be included in consultation about vaccine mandates and how they can hold gatherings in the traffic light system. 

Workers covered by the vaccine mandate need to have their first dose by Friday next week and be fully vaccinated by January 17. 

It was not quite what Crave cafe's general manager Nigel Cottle was expecting. 

"The new information for me is that our staff don't have to be fully vaccinated at the start of the traffic light, they have to have at least one vaccination." 

Either way he's ready to open the doors - of the more than 50 staff, only one has decided not to get vaccinated. 

Cottle said he would be standing at the door to check vaccine passes - a job he was loathe to pass to staff on their first day back in months. 

"We have some nervousness around just the systems and people being not angry or nervous but just frustrated maybe," he said. 

"My hope is that people have a generosity to the staff because it's not their decision but they are having to outwork the implications of the government policy, which in general we're supportive of." 

It will be no-jab no cup of joe, as those who cannot show a vaccine pass will not be let inside to place an order. 

So far retailers are exempt from the vaccine mandate but can choose to adopt the pass system for their stores. 

Business NZ chief executive Kirk Hope told Morning Report the guidance from the government on mandates for workplaces was helpful, though he would have liked to have seen it issued earlier. 

"About a month ago or six weeks ago, businesses were really concerned about what the requirements were going to be in order to open up; they were worried about whether they could mandate - or not - vaccinations in the workplace," he said. 

"I think the government should have moved earlier on it." 

He said while the rules for businesses mandated by the government were fairly clear, the calculations were not so simple for businesses which wanted to impose their own workplace mandates. 

"If [a business owner has] determined that a role needs to be vaccinated and the person who's in the role chooses not to be vaccinated, there's a process in there for how you deal with that in the workplace," he said. 

"That'll take about a month, if not longer, because you've got to allow the person time to be vaccinated, so we would've liked to see this earlier, to be honest, to enable people a bit more time." 

Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Wood yesterday announced the government would release a new tool to help businesses assess whether they should be requiring workers to be vaccinated. 

He said legislation allowing the tool to be created and setting up a four-week minimum paid period of termination, as well as time off to get vaccinated, would be passed this week. 

Hope said he understood concerns about the speed at which the legislation required to enforce the new mandates was progressing. 

"Public scrutiny and the time to do that probably would've provided for a more robust process in terms of the legislation, that's for sure." 

He hoped businesses not covered by the government mandate would consider public safety when choosing whether to mandate staff themselves, or not. 

"What we are hoping to see is that businesses that are choosing to [employ mandates] are doing so because it's the safest thing to do for their staff and their customers and I think the risk assessment tool, which enables them to make that decision is pretty robust." 

Local clothing retailer Kilt would not be adopting a mandate for staff or customers, said co-owner Lauren Hart. 

"At the moment while we don't have to mandate we are opting not to. If that changes of course we would change with that but at this stage we are letting them [staff] choose and make their own choice knowing what they are encountering." 

She said shoppers have returned to Kilt's Auckland and Hamilton boutiques, but not everyone is ready. 

"People that are out and about are comfortable to be out and about and that's something we've definitely found. There are those people that are still a little wary about going out and going shopping." 

Businesses and organisations are to use an app to scan and verify the certificates.