9 Sep 2019

Employment lawyer says asking for vaccination history when recruiting is reasonable

8:20 pm on 9 September 2019

An employment lawyer says it's reasonable for employers to ask about a person's vaccination history while recruiting.

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Employment lawyer Barbara Buckett says it should be reasonable for employers to ask about vaccinations. Photo: 123rf

More than 1000 cases have been confirmed during the measles outbreak with the majority recorded in Auckland.

Queenstown recorded eight new cases over the weekend, including six NZSki staff who work at the Remarkables ski field.

Employment lawyer Barbara Buckett said employers were legally obligated to consider the health of their staff.

"The over-arching legislation here is Health and Safety and Employment, and the employer has an obligation to make sure that there is ... no health hazard or risk to anybody in their employment," Ms Buckett said.

"Within that legislation, it probably is a valid or, shall we say, reasonable approach to take. If somebody's coming into the workplace with an illness or a virus that can contaminate other people ... and could be seriously endangering their health, it's something the employer is required under health and safety to consider."

That meant it should be reasonable for employers to ask about vaccinations as contagious diseases were a health risk, she said.

"I don't believe it would be discriminatory to ask because you ask before employment if is there any health issue that you have that might pose a risk to the workplace or that I need to know about."

"I've got to take all reasonable, practical steps to ensure that that risk is managed or eliminated if possible."

But she didn't believe it was a matter of changing the existing legislation, instead, Ms Buckett said businesses and organisations should consider their own policy.

"Then it becomes part of the employment contract's terms and conditions so you make it very clear that you are required to provide your employer with information in these circumstances and if you don't it could become, as long as you're aware of it, an misconduct issue."

That would then go through a process to determine whether a employee's contract could be terminated.

But employers would need to tread carefully so they weren't creating a stigma with the illnesses, she said.

"In a global world, the likelihood of people having these transmittable diseases being in a work environment are going to be likely."

"We've thought of health and safety in more tangible things like physical objects, but this is probably something we have to start thing about, how do we manage this?"

NZSki have not returned calls.

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