COVID-19: 40 pct of New Zealand's workforce faces mandatory vaccination as Government announces sweeping changes

About 40 percent of New Zealand's workforce will need to be fully vaccinated after the Government announced a sweeping vaccine mandate on Tuesday afternoon.

The compulsory vaccinations apply to businesses like hospitality, retail, hairdressers and gyms.

Basically if under the traffic light system the business uses vaccine passports then all staff will need to get two jabs.

The Prime Minister says if a customer has to be vaccinated, staff should be too. And she has signalled there could be more mandates to come for the public sector.

Christchurch hairdresser Niq James is proudly fully vaccinated. He wants his customers and staff to be as well.

"It's just another layer of protection we can add," he says.

The Headspace owner says compulsory vaccinations would be a big help.

"It would make it easier for business owners to actually enforce that," he adds.

On the other island - and a world apart - an Auckland hot yoga studio also wants to be vax-only.

"That helps our students feel safe too and that's basically the crux of it for us," Abby Simons says.

That's the crux of it for the Government too.

"If customers must be vaccinated then so too must the workers," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.

So here comes the sweeping mandate.

"Businesses large and small want a clear legal framework on the issue of vaccines and vaccines and vaccine mandates. They want certainty and simplicity and we're answering that call," Ardern explains.

The incoming law change means under the new traffic light system:

  • If customers have to show a vaccine passport - like at a hairdresser, cafe or gym - workers have to be double-jabbed too
  • If a business - like construction or retail - also wants to be vax-only, they'll get a simple risk assessment
  • If a worker refuses to get the jab, they'll get a four-week notice period
  • Employers will also have to provide paid time off to their staff to get vaxxed

Combined with health and education, 40 percent of the workforce may need to be jabbed.

"We're now talking about, for instance, where the vast majority of businesses will be vaccinated but giving clarity to businesses if they have one or two who may not be," Ardern says.

BusinessNZ CEO Kirk Hope says this has been the "single biggest issue" of workplace management and workplace health and safety in respect of the pandemic.

But Newshub can reveal those on the frontline of the crisis - our COVID testers - are not required to be vaccinated.

The Government's still working out the finer details of the health workforce but is already looking to extend it to customer-facing public services like the Ministry of Social Development.