'Conversation underway' on whether COVID-19 vaccine passport will be used at NZ businesses, venues - Grant Robertson

A conversation about whether a COVID-19 vaccine passport could be used domestically - at public places like venues and businesses - is underway, Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson says.

The passports, which prove whether a person has been immunised against coronavirus, are expected to be in place before Christmas in New Zealand - though there has been plenty of speculation about what they'd be used for.

Overseas, similar documents are used when accessing a range of public venues - but Roberston wouldn't be drawn on whether they'd be applied in the same way here.

"There is a different conversation to have about what happens in terms of venues or businesses," he told reporters at a COVID-19 press briefing on Friday afternoon.

"That conversation is underway. I'm not going to speculate today on where it's going to end up at."

Robertson says a lot of work is being done around what needs to happen around overseas travel, so that New Zealand can have consistency in dealing with other countries and jurisdictions.

But there's another issue that looms as a future debate: whether getting jabbed could become mandatory in the workplace.

Currently, getting vaccinated is still a choice unless you work at the border. However, Air New Zealand is considering making vaccines compulsory for non-border workers, too.

Employment law expert Max Whitehead told Newshub it's a legal grey area, but dismissal is possible under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

"They can't dismiss them for not being vaccinated, but they can dismiss them by saying 'look, there's no work for you while you're not vaccinated because it's unsafe for you to be in your work environment'."

Robertson on Friday said it's an issue organisations are already giving thought to in relation to their own employees.

"Obviously that's an area that's new… employment law will evolve around that I'm sure, but for now we're saying to people that for a new contract, obviously you can do that [mandate vaccines], but you need to be talking to your workers for an existing [contract]."

"So where it then goes and whether the Government ended up in a legislative position is now the discussion that is underway."

The Government's vaccine passport is likely to come in the form of an app that will store health information, including vaccine and testing data.

It is still in development, but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says it'll be ready for use by the end of 2021.