10 Sep 2021

Requiring staff to be vaccinated now a top concern amid proposed changes to Holidays Act

10:06 am on 10 September 2021

Proposed changes to the Holidays Act remains the top employment law concern for businesses, but it is now closely followed by whether firms can require staff to be vaccinated.

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File image. Photo: Facebook

The law firm Simpson Grierson's latest survey of the employment challenges businesses face found that more than half of the 126 respondents were concerned that the government's proposed changes to the Holidays Act still did not address long standing issues to do with how leave was calculated.

It is the fourth time that the Holidays Act was cited as the main employment issue in Simpson Grierson's annual survey. There has been overwhelming support among employers for a complete overhaul of the legislation.

Earlier this year, a special taskforce recommended that workers should be entitled to take sickness or bereavement leave from their first day on the job, staff returning from parental leave should be paid their full rate, and a new way to calculate leave based on either the worker's ordinary pay or their average weekly earnings over the previous 13 or 52 weeks - whichever was greater.

Simpson Grierson special counsel Bronwyn Heenan said the fact that the Holidays Act was still the top issue for businesses should send a signal to the government that more work needs to be done in reworking the legislation.

"The taskforce has missed a golden opportunity to simplify the Holidays Act by not recommending the accrual of leave in hours, leaving different accruals for different types of leave," Heenan said.

"The taskforce also has not taken the opportunity to simplify the way annual leave is calculated, suggesting three calculations will now need to be undertaken, rather than suggesting a way forward that would allow for fewer formulae."

The new legislation does not come into effect until 2024 but Heenan said urgent reform was needed to reduce the complexity and costs for businesses.

Covid-19 issues

The latest survey also found that 51 percent of firms were grappling with Covid-19 related issues, including whether they can require staff to be vaccinated and scarce space at MIQ facilities.

Heenan said because the government had chosen to mandate the vaccine if let employers in a difficult spot, there was a tension between honouring peoples rights under the Bill of Rights not to order them to undergo medical treatment and keeping people safe at work.

Fair pay agreements and greater guidance on what is bullying and harassment in the workplace were among the other concerns for businesses.