Covid 19 Delta outbreak: No jab, but paid special leave for up to a month if vaccine refused

Staff at a public agency who refuse to get vaccinated could be put on paid special leave for up to a month.

Government vaccine requirements started applying to some public sector employees today, including certain roles at children’s ministry Oranga Tamariki.

Any health practitioner working for OT is supposed to have had their first jab by today, and their second by New Year’s Day.

But those who refuse will either be redeployed, or put on special leave.

The vaccine rule also applied to all staff whose work required them to be present at an OT secure residence.

It’s not immediately clear how many other agencies were offering paid special leave as an option for people who refused vaccines or redeployment.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she did not believe it would be very widespread.

“Before I give any commentary on whether or not indeed it is affecting the taxpayer I’d like to go away and see the size of the issue,” Ardern said this afternoon.

“What we’ve found through our mandate experience is actually … many individuals are either successfully redeployed or make a choice to be vaccinated,” the PM added.

“On the health side, it captures people who might interact with people on a fairly regular basis,” director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said today.

“Oranga Tamariki, like other public agencies, many of these were already captured under the border worker testing,” he added.

Sina Aiolupotea Aiono, OT’s vaccinations mandate programme lead, said the Public Health Order meant only fully vaccinated people, or those with valid exemptions, could carry out certain work.

“Staff members who are required to be vaccinated for their role from 15 November 2021, and have chosen not to be vaccinated, will be asked to meet with their manager to discuss the next steps,” Aiono said.

“Staff members who opt to not be vaccinated are likely to be either placed on alternative duties or on paid special leave while Oranga Tamariki works through the implications for the individual staff member’s ongoing employment,” Aiono added.

A staff member is likely to be placed on paid special leave for “generally up to one month, and after that may be placed on leave without pay”, Aiono said.

“If a staff member decides to get vaccinated at any point while Oranga Tamariki is working through the next steps of the individual’s employment, they can immediately return to work.”

OT confirmed to the Herald that nobody at the ministry had been fired as a result of refusing to get vaccinated.

All the agency’s hospital liaison social workers must be vaccinated, and so do any OT staff regularly based at a health provider.

Vaccination requirements mean anyone from OT working on a school ground while students are present must be vaccinated.

So do people who in certain circumstances need to be within 2m of a health practitioner or a member of the public for 15 minutes or more.

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