Speaker Trevor Mallard acknowledges 'anxiety' caused by comments on COVID-19 vaccination requirements at Parliament

House Speaker Trevor Mallard has acknowledged "anxiety" caused by his comments in a news report about potential COVID-19 vaccine requirements for staff at Parliament. 

Mallard was quoted in a Newsroom article saying Parliament staff might be required to work from home if they haven't been vaccinated, once everyone has had the chance to get one. 

"It might be a requirement that if it's a job that can be done from outside the building then an unvaccinated staffer do that.''

Mallard is quoted saying it'll "eventually" be a requirement of visitors to be vaccinated, and that he's working with Parliamentary Service chief executive Rafael Gonzalez-Montero to construct a log of who's jabbed, and journalists won't be exempt. 

"We don't have a policy yet, but there's a logic to saying we want to keep the highest possible proportion of people in here vaccinated."

Newshub understands Gonzalez-Montero has received expressions of concern by staff on the precinct about Mallard's comments, in particular how the new rules for the unvaccinated hadn't been canvassed before the Newsroom article. 

In an email to staff, Gonzalez-Montero said he and the Clerk had agreed to seek legal advice on the Speaker's proposals for the unvaccinated, in the wake of the article. 

"I want to reassure you that this is the only piece of work that has been done on this matter, and no decisions have been made about whether staff will be asked to disclose vaccination status or whether there will be a requirement to be vaccinated to work on precinct," he wrote. 

"When we receive this advice, we will certainly communicate and consult with you all."

Gonzalez-Montero said there were "two different situations at play here", the first an employment perspective, for which he is responsible, and the rules of access to the parliamentary precinct, which is within the Speaker's purview.

"I am really sorry that you found out about this through the media rather than from me or your manager."

House Speaker Trevor Mallard.
House Speaker Trevor Mallard. Photo credit: Getty Images

Mallard also addressed the concerns of staff. 

"You may have read my comments on Newsroom today regarding ongoing work around the safety of the Parliamentary precinct during COVID-19 and vaccines at Parliament. I understand receiving information in this manner may have caused anxiety, which was not my intention," he wrote in an email.

"The priority as always remains ensuring the safety and wellbeing of all those at Parliament, and I want to thank you all for everything you do every day to support the Parliamentary workplace."

"I think what would have been helpful is if Trevor Mallard had communicated that to the MPs and staff in Parliament before he communicated with the media," said ACT leader David Seymour. 

"But inevitably there's going to be, in every workplace, a contest over whether people can be in that workplace vaccinated or not. In ACT's view, people should be vaccinated unless a medical condition precludes them from being in the workplace."

National leader Judith Collins, who is double vaccinated, told The AM Show employers shouldn't make vaccination against COVID-19 compulsory.

Collins said the Ministry of Health should work on "some policies and guidance for employers and employees" but "I think it's also very important that we don't end up with two classes of people in this country".

National's Maureen Pugh and Simeon Brown, as well as ACT MP Toni Severin, are the only remaining MPs who haven't yet received a jab. 

Severin is seeking advice on a medical condition she has, and Pugh is understood to be doing the same, with a flexible booking made. Brown is also booked in for his first dose.