Managing staff during the COVID-19 pandemic

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There is guidance available from the Ministry of Education. We recommend that principals and boards take their lead from this guidance:

Policy/Procedure reviews and Health and Safety

If you haven’t already, now is a good time to review employment policy and procedure that could relate to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Masks at Orange

One of the significant changes for schools under the orange setting is mask-wearing. While they are no longer required by law, their use is “strongly encouraged”.

NZSTA encourages Boards to be aware of their obligations under the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Protection Framework) Order 2021 and the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 when it comes to mask use within a school setting.

This legislation requires Boards to meet the primary duty of care – which is to look after the health and safety of workers and others so far as is reasonably practicable.  

If a decision is made to require masks for employees and/or students, it should be the outcome of a risk assessment process carried out in accordance with the school’s Health and Safety policy and in the context of the ongoing pandemic.

Employees can share their thoughts with their school’s Health and Safety Committee to inform the position and policies of the school.

Te Mahau has further information on the COVID-19 Protection Framework for schools and kura.

We will continue to update this page as schools complete their health and safety assessments

Mask Exemptions

The criteria for mask exemptions are on the Unite Against COVID-19 website.

Te Mahau has further information and resources on Face masks at schools and kura to assist schools in managing mask-wearing.

If you have further questions about managing mask exemptions, please contact NZSTA.

COVID-19 Vaccination Mandate

As of 5 April 2022, you no longer need to request vaccination information or consider vaccination status as part of the appointment process at this time.

Re-integrating employees after absence

The removal of the mandate may see some employees who were impacted by the mandate returning to work in your school.

Due to the range of views held in the community, it is possible this reintegration may be contentious and require some work to help foster positive working relationships in the school.

For school leaders challenged with this, we offer some suggestions:

  • remind all employees (preferably by email) that the classroom and employee’s room are not the forums to have discussions around vaccinations and mandates
  • socialise employees back into the work environment
  • encourage use of the school’s Employee Assistance Programme (“EAP”) for individuals. The Ministry has announced it will cover reasonable costs of EAP until June 2022
  • consider the use of a group restorative session, which could be run by a respected member of the school community, or you can contact an EAP provider.
  • keep in mind that individual views may have been modified or eased as the virus has been managed through compliance with high vaccination rates
  • refocus energies and passions towards the education and growth of students – the purpose of our roles.

Ultimately, as members of the public service, teachers, school | kura leaders (and board members) are to be guided by the principle that it is not appropriate to use their trusted position to promote their personal views. This should guide the approach taken.

Privacy Considerations

If it has not been already, in accordance with Information Privacy Principle 9 (s 22, Privacy Act 2020) information regarding vaccination should be securely deleted or destroyed appropriately.

Frequently asked questions

The following have been sourced from the Ministry of Education.

The full list of questions and answers can be found here Removal of Vaccine Mandates - Further Information and FAQs.

As always, if you have further questions or need to discuss your individual situation further, please contact NZSTA.

Are we obligated to re-employ a previous staff member whose employment ended due to the Public Health Order mandate?

No. The removal of the mandate does not mean that unvaccinated staff members whose employment ended have a right to return to their former position, or to any other position. This includes employees who resigned because of their inability to comply with the mandate or whose employment was ended after a reasonable employment process. Your normal obligations to advertise vacancies and appoint on merit apply to all new appointments.

Employment agreements with replacement staff that School Boards have appointed while the vaccination requirements were in place are not changed by the removal of the mandates and remain valid. 

What if we have agreed to a term of absence for an unvaccinated staff member?

Any employment agreements the School Board has entered into with staff to cover the leave of absence still apply. If these are tied to a specific date, then that date still applies, unless the parties agree to a new date. 

Can we continue to ask people for their vaccination status?

In general no. Once the vaccine mandates are removed you will no longer have a specific legal requirement to ask for people’s vaccination status. Accordingly, requesting this would be the same as for any other private medical information.

However, you can continue to ask workers about their vaccination status if you have good reason to do so. For example, they are undertaking work which your health and safety assessment has identified requires vaccination as one of the measures to control these risks. You would need to have sufficient reason for requesting and holding the information and follow your normal processes for storing private information.