All of New Zealand will move to the traffic light settings at 11:59pm on Thursday 2 December 2021. The Vaccine Pass is now available for vaccinated individuals along with a NZ Pass Verifier smartphone app for businesses.
Under the traffic light system, plant production work is not vaccine mandated by the Government. Employers can require that some work be done only by a vaccinated employee if a risk assessment identifies this is necessary health and safety. It is unlikely that plant production work overall will meet the threshold for mandated vaccines, however, an assessment will give you guidance on how to arrange your staff. From mid-December, there will be a new Worksafe vaccination assessment tool but in the interim, there is guidance on the Worksafe website.
Garden centre retailers are not required to check customer vaccine passes under the traffic light system however sit-down hospitality outlets require checks. Therefore, if you have a café in your garden centre further restrictions apply.
MBIE has put out some more advice for businesses at https://www.business.govt.nz/covid-19/covid-19-protection-framework and specifically for the primary industry at https://www.business.govt.nz/covid-19/covid-19-protection-framework/primary-industries/.
A new transition payment will be made available particularly for affected businesses in Auckland, Waikato and Northland to acknowledge the restrictions they have faced under the higher Alert Levels. The one-off transition payment will be activated through the Resurgence Support Payment (RSP) system criteria and be available on December 10.
Adapting to the new protection framework
NZPPI is currently liaising with Government agencies and other primary industries to further understand the implications of the traffic light system on plant production. The key issues that we are focusing on are:
- Application of new Government rules
- Vaccinations – working towards higher rates fully vaccinated staff
- Antigen testing – how this can be used to best effect in the workplace
- Work practices – strict hygiene, scanning, mask-wearing, bubbles
- Responding to a workplace Covid case – how to manage a case and keep operating.
No-one has all the answers at the moment about this new phase of Covid response so we are collating information from various sources. We will develop new resources for NZPPI members and may host Zoom calls to enable members to share ideas. We will keep you informed.
In the meantime, NZPPI has plenty of other resources and information about managing Covid in the workplace in our Covid news section. Also check the latest updates on the Unite Against Covid-19 website plus information on Health and wellbeing and other information for businesses.
We also collecting case studies on from NZPPI members about how that are managing the challenges and will share these with you over the next weeks.
Case study 1 - Unvaccinated staff in the nursery
One NZPPI member nursery has incentivised staff to get vaccinated by giving out supermarket vouchers after their second dose. However, 15% of staff remain unvaccinated. The nursey is managing the issue by retaining most of the same measures as under Alert Level 3 i.e. staff physical distancing where possible, mask-wearing, sanitisation protocols, maintaining strict staff bubbles to minimise interaction and monitoring the movements of those bubbles. Management is also undertaking health checks of each staff member when they arrive for work. Anyone with symptoms is not allowed onsite and has to undergo a Covid test. There is funding available for staff unable to work while they wait for the result. This approach is helping ensure that staff are safe at work and the risk of contracting Covid from a colleague is minimised. It will also help management negotiate with health officials to keep the nursery operating if an employee ever tests positive.