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New COVID-19 response legislation available on Westlaw NZ

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Two notable pieces of legislation related to New Zealand’s COVID-19 response are now available on Westlaw NZ: the COVID-19 Response (Vaccinations) Legislation Act 2021, and the COVID-19 Public Health Response Amendment Act 2021.

The COVID-19 Response (Vaccinations) Legislation Act 2021 (Vaccinations Act) was passed by Parliament under urgency and came in to force on 26 November 2021. It enacts the Government’s “traffic light system”, which starts across New Zealand on 3 December 2021.

The Vaccinations Act amends both the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020 and the Employment Relations Act 2000.

Among other things, the Vaccinations Act aims to:

  • support future vaccination or testing mandates for work in the public interest; and
  • provide for regulations to be made that prescribe an assessment tool which persons conducting a business or undertaking may use to ascertain whether it is reasonable for work to be carried out only by workers who are vaccinated or tested.

An introduction to the changes affecting the Employment Relations Act 2000 (ERA) has been written by Chief Judge Inglis and is now available in Employment Law on Westlaw NZ.

The ERA has been amended to provide for reasonable paid time off for employees to be vaccinated. A four-week paid notice period for termination is provided for, if the work requires vaccination but an employee is unvaccinated. The termination notice will be cancelled if the employee gets vaccinated during that period, unless cancelling the notice would unreasonably disrupt the employer’s business.

The employee will still be able to bring a personal grievance in relation to the ending of their employment agreement and can terminate their employment early by mutual agreement with their employer.

The COVID-19 Public Health Response Amendment Act 2021 (Amendment Act 2021) largely came into force on 20 November 2021. It also amends the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020.

The Amendment Act 2021 aims to:

  • improve the flexibility for making COVID-19 orders;
  • strengthen the infringement regime and deter non-compliance with orders;
  • support the effective management and operation of managed isolation and quarantine facilities; and
  • enable a limited group of enforcement officers to stop vehicles at checkpoints.

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