Education sector scrambling for certainty over number of teachers vaccine mandate could drive out

The education sector is scrambling as it tries to work out how many teachers the mass vaccine mandates might force out and so far no one knows.

But other sectors are desperate for their own mandates, to save them having to navigate complex employment law alone.

Mamaku School is surrounded by vaccine hesitancy.

"Unsure if some of the teachers are going to be vaccinated or not," principal Gary Veysei says.

Being this rural, Veysei is worried about the knock-on effects of the mass mandate.

"If we mandate having the vaccination - I mean it's really important - but do we have the people to fill the gaps if there is a need?" he asks.

The education sector spent Tuesday navigating the fallout from the mass mandates announced by the Government on Monday.

"The reality is, like all professions, we have some educators who are either nervous about getting the vaccine or they just outright don't want it," says Liam Rutherford, president of education union NZEI.

And for anyone hoping to get a medical exemption - chances are slim to none.

"Probably less than a 100 people across the country for whom this vaccine would be contraindicated," Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says.

No one knows how many will leave instead of rolling up their sleeves.

"We just don't have that information," Rutherford says.

Or exactly how far the mandate stretches.

"Is the board of trustees required to be vaccinated, cleaning staff after hours including after hours and contracted cleaning staff, school bus drivers?" New Zealand Principals' Federation president Perry Rush asks.

But despite the scramble, other sectors are green-eyed over the mass mandates.

"It's really important that the Government moves urgently which says employers can take whatever steps they need to take to keep their workplaces safe," Retail NZ CEO Greg Harford says.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the Government is "completing a bit more work" around the areas where it's looking to use a vaccine certificate.

It's currently a legal minefield for businesses to work out if they can mandate. They have to do a health and safety risk assessment to show whether they're customer-facing, if staff work in close proximity and what their vaccine status is.

If they're low risk - like an office - no mass-vax. If they're high risk - like a supermarket - they could potentially mandate.

But they still could get lawsuits.

"There are many other essential services which would also like to take that step and benefit from the same mandate being extended to them," Chapman Tripp partner and lawyer Marie Wisker says.

But they'll have to wait and see.