Coronavirus and the Law

Coronavirus and the Law

Vaccinations and Privacy Rights

This page answers some common privacy questions people are asking Community Law Centres. Detailed information is also available from the Privacy Commission.

Do I need to tell people whether I’ve been vaccinated?

No, your vaccine status is private health information.

It can be lawful for people to impose restrictions on you for not telling them about your vaccine status. These restrictions can be serious, including restricting access to a job, travel, or a rental property.

When can someone ask me if I’ve been vaccinated?

A business or organisation can ask you about your vaccine status if it has a legal obligation to comply with COVID-19 rules. It will be legally obligated if:

  • it is under a government mandate (Teachers, school staff and prison workers, for example)
  • it is under the traffic light system and has chosen to use vaccine passes (some hairdressers and cafes, for example)
  • it has conducted a risk assessment and decides there is a high risk of COVID-19 spread (some landlords and law centres, for example).

Asking for your vaccine status is only lawful when the information is needed to comply with COVID-19 rules. This includes situations like:

  • Enforcing a travel requirement (for crossing the Auckland border or air travel, for example)
  • Checking vaccine passes if the traffic light system applies ( a cafe or hairdresser, for example)
  • Making sure employees are vaccinated if the business or organisation is under a government mandate (Teachers, school staff and prison workers, for example)

For detailed information about who and when someone can ask, visit Privacy Commission: https://www.privacy.org.nz/resources-2/privacy-and-covid-19/

Can my boss ask me if I’m vaccinated?

Employers can ask you what your vaccination status is if they need the information for a lawful purpose.  A lawful purpose would be:

  • To make sure only vaccinated staff are doing work that the government has said only vaccinated people must do (For example, teachers and border workers)
  • To make sure all staff are vaccinated if the business has chosen to be part of the traffic light system which uses vaccine passports (For example, Some cafés or hairdressers)
  • As part of a COVID-19 risk assessment
  • After a risk assessment is completed and the assessment shows that people doing the job must be vaccinated (For example, a social worker who works with vulnerable people).

I have underlying health conditions and am higher risk from COVID-19. Do I need to tell my employer?

No, this is private health information. However, it is lawful for an employer to ask about it for reasons listed in the previous question.

People are considered “higher risk” of severe illness from COVID-19 if they are older or have an underlying medical condition. For more information see the COVID-19 website.

If you are “higher risk”, you have a responsibility to take steps to protect yourself in the workplace.  This can include sharing personal health information with your boss.  If you don’t disclose it, you may be put in situations which increase the risk to you, and your employer would not be at fault if you haven’t told them your health and vaccine status.

What can my employer do if I don’t tell them my vaccination status?

If you don’t tell your employer your vaccine status they can treat you as an unvaccinated person.  Employers must reduce COVID-19 risks.  If they don’t know your vaccine status, they should assume you are high risk and take measures to reduce the risk. This could include preventing you from doing certain jobs, asking you to work from home, or introducing additional hygiene practices at the workplace.

Your employer must tell you that they are treating you as unvaccinated and talk to you about the best ways to manage the increased risk.

My employer is demanding I tell them my vaccine status. Is this lawful?

No, your employer must collect vaccine information in a reasonable way.  They cannot be threatening, coercive, misleading or otherwise unfair when gathering this information.

If they do demand to know your vaccine status, you may be able to complain to the Privacy Commissioner or bring a personal grievance against your employer. See “Employment: Resolving problems” in the Community Law Manual for more information on personal grievance process.

Do I have to tell my employer why I’m not vaccinated?

No, you don’t have to tell your employer why you are unvaccinated. Your reason is not usually relevant to the health and safety risk.

How should my employer protect my personal health information?

Your employer must store all health information securely where only people who need it for health and safety reasons can access it.

Your employer must not tell anyone about your vaccine status unless it is for lawful reasons, like those listed under ‘Can my boss ask me if I’m vaccinated?’. Your employer should tell you if, who with and why they will share your information and how they will protect it.

I’ve applied for a new job.  Do I have to tell my potential employer if I’m not vaccinated?

A business or its agent (including a recruitment agency) can ask for vaccine status if there is a lawful reason. See lawful reasons listed under ‘can my boss ask me if I’m vaccinated?’

The employer should explain that if you don’t tell them your vaccine status means that they will consider you unvaccinated.

Do I need to show my vaccine status to venues I want to enter?

Under traffic light red, you must provide your vaccine pass if you wish to enter places with vaccination requirements (For example, gyms, hospitality venues, events and gatherings).

You must also provide your vaccine pass to attend tertiary education in person (Like universities and polytechs).

Under traffic lights orange and green, you must provide your vaccine pass if you wish to enter places with vaccination requirements.

Under any alert level, you do not need to provide your vaccine pass to access basic needs facilities including essential health care, public transport, supermarkets and emergency shelters.

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