Changes to the vaccine mandate
- As you are no doubt aware, the Government are withdrawing the vaccine mandate requirements for the Education sector at 11:59pm on 4th April. We are aware that some people have been spreading misinformation about the implications for Playcentre and request that this stop. We have a clear communication process in place for people to raise concerns or issues via our Covid19 Question Bank which provides one consistent source of information. We fully appreciate the concerns some have over this and we ourselves are impacted. We need to manage through this latest shift in Government thinking on Covid19 using our values as the driving force behind all that we do. We are stronger together than we could ever be if we are divided. Please refer to the Playcentre Aotearoa website for information and if you have questions, please send them to COVID feedback and we will collate them and provide our response in the FAQ page on our website.
- A reminder that we issued initial advice on Tuesday 29th March including saying that further advice would follow as we have been actively reviewing our risk assessment, taking legal advice and consulting with MoE. We knew MoE would be issuing further guidance for the ECE sector and our legal advice is that we need to take that into consideration. We have now had as much advice from MoE as we believe we will be getting this week and so we are now issuing the latest advice that we can. Please note that as further information/advice comes to light we will review it and issue further advice as quickly as possible. We appreciate that this is less than ideal but is the reality of the situation we are currently facing.
- Our core objectives have always been to protect our tamariki, staff, whānau and the communities we serve and we remain committed to those objectives. The situation we face in April 2022 is different from the one we faced in November 2021. The nature of the threat from Covid19 has changed and we also need to consider how we heal our organisation after the impact of the Government’s mandate on our people. We need to protect our tamariki, staff, whānau and the communities we serve from division and discrimination just as much as Covid19, even though Covid19 is very much top of mind at the moment.
- Due to our unique nature, the principles around Covid19 management apply to both our staff and parent volunteers. This was affirmed by the original mandate provisions and with our higher parent/tamariki ratio, we believe this view needs to continue.
- The Government advice is that now Omicron has entered the community, outside of those sectors still covered by Government vaccine mandates (such as the health sector), WorkSafe considers that few workplaces will be able to justify an employer vaccination requirement for health and safety or public health reasons. We do not have the resources necessary to defend a blanket mandate in the face of this advice, and so considering the risk assessment review we have undertaken, there will be no Playcentre Aotearoa blanket requirement for vaccination. Our risk assessment covers not only Covid19 health impacts but all the wider risks under a range of obligations including PCBU liabilities, employment legislation and the funding and reputational risk implications of spending money designed to support our tamariki on expensive legal actions.
The advice we issued on 29th March remains current, specifically:
- The core public health hygiene measures we are all familiar with of hand washing, staying home when sick and covering coughs and sneezes remain in place
- Whenever possible spending more time outdoors and increasing ventilation indoors all contribute to the reduction of risk
- In addition to the legal requirements for visitors to wear masks, we recommend that all adults wear masks while inside at Playcentre as masks are known to reduce transmission of the virus by 53% https://www.beehive.govt.nz/speech/post-peak-plan-safe-return-greater-normality
- We are an organisation with a broad range of views and since the Government announcement on the withdrawal of the vaccine mandate we have become aware of two distinct bodies of opinion within our organisation. One being those centres who wish to welcome back unvaccinated whānau and those who do not. Discrimination is not acceptable within Playcentre and we are of the view, following our values of Generosity of Spirit, Respect and Compassion, that those who do not wish to welcome back unvaccinated whānau are doing so from a genuine concern over safety. Accordingly, those local centres who wish to retain a vaccine requirement are able to submit a request to do so using an evidence based health and safety risk assessment. We are currently preparing a process for this which will include an assessment template and process guide. In the meantime, local centres can start to gather their evidence and preparing their risk assessment. These links will be useful in doing so:
- Risk Assessment and Planning for Omicron.docx (live.com)
- COVID-19 controls at work – employer vaccination requirements and other measures | WorkSafe
- Vaccines and the workplace » Employment New Zealand
- In order to allow the time required to carry out appropriate consultation and not to pre-empt any outcomes, local centres can continue operating within our health and safety plan we had in place prior to 5 April and effectively continue with a vaccine mandate requirement in place. This will be for a temporary period until decisions are made using the evidence based risk assessment and taking into consideration the wider risk profile of our organisation. If any local centres wish to adopt this approach, please contact your Regional Manager so we are aware of the intention and can provide support and advice
- We have another new and challenging phase of Covid19 ahead of us and our success in navigating this successfully will be based upon a professional and evidence based approach taking into consideration the full risk profile, the current and future needs of our organisation as a whole and most importantly, having our behaviours driven by our values.