Health and safety protections
COVID-19 and work
In 2020 and 2021, the New Zealand government brought in rules to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Some of these rules were around requirements at work, for example, wearing masks and getting vaccinated. Most of these rules are no longer in force, but your employer may still have health and safety policies around COVID-19. This section covers your rights around these policies.
Rules around vaccines and masks
Can I be required to get vaccinated for work?
In most workplaces, employers don’t require employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19. If your work wants to bring in a vaccine requirement, they should consult with their employees first and complete a work health and safety risk assessment.
There are circumstances where vaccine requirements are genuinely needed for health and safety reasons – for example, in a healthcare setting.
There may also be situations where a third party imposes a condition on your employer – for example, if you work at a catering company and a venue only allow vaccinated workers onto its premises.
Can I be required to wear a mask at work?
Any workplace can encourage you to wear a face mask or to require customers to wear a face mask as a condition of entry.
Your employer can make you wear any personal protection equipment (“PPE”) if there is a justified reason for this. For example, you might have to wear a face mask if your employer has identified and is trying to manage a specific risk such as airborne diseases, dust, or dangerous fumes. You can talk to your employer if you think their reason is not justified.
If there is a reason you can’t wear the PPE required, you should talk to your employer about finding a different way to manage the risk.
Can my boss ask me if I’m vaccinated?
Your boss should only ask if you’re vaccinated if they have a good reason to, for example, if you will be visiting a third party site that requires vaccinations. You do not have to disclose your personal vaccination status if you don’t want to.
If you choose not to disclose your vaccination status, your employer might assume you are unvaccinated, but they have to tell you this.
You can’t be redeployed or disadvantaged for refusing to disclose your vaccination status unless the work you are doing cannot be done by unvaccinated employees.
What if I don’t feel comfortable working with unvaccinated people?
If you don’t feel comfortable working in close proximity with unvaccinated colleagues, you could ask your employer for a change in your working arrangements (see: “Flexible working”). For example, you could ask to work from home or work different hours. Your employer is required to consider your request in good faith.