Unvaccinated Customs worker’s sacking justified – Employment Relations Authority

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch
Sep 06, 2021 |

A border worker fired for refusing a COVID-19 vaccination has lost a personal grievance case against the employer.

The worker started as a border protection officer at a maritime port facility in October 2020 .

The worker’s name and location of employment are suppressed.

The officer was to “assist with the temporary additional staffing required to manage and reduce the risk of COVID-19 entering New Zealand via the maritime pathway.”

In late 2020, the government determined border and managed isolation workers including those employed by Customs, to be considered a priority to be offered a Covid-19 vaccination.

A local team supervisor sent a group email saying “remember this is voluntary with no current negative consequences regarding being able to work”.

The officer refused and was sacked in April 2021.

In his judgment, ERA member David Beck said “Customs carefully sought to explore the reasons why the worker declined to be vaccinated whilst acknowledging that it was their right to refuse such a vaccination.”

The problem for the officer was a refusal to engage with Customs and articulate why they did not want to preserve ongoing employment by getting vaccinated.

David Beck criticised Customs” for being slow to initially respond to correspondence.”

“On hearing evidence from the Health and Safety and Well Being Manager. I can easily conclude that the role the worker undertook, required vaccination.”

Alternatives to dismissal were “vigorously pursued by Customs, but the worker was employed in a position that was already temporary.”

David Beck said the worker should have reasonably anticipated that the issue of vaccination would come up when accepting the position of a front-line border protection officer.

The unjustified dismissal claim was rejected.

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch

Chris Lynch is a journalist, videographer and content producer, broadcasting from his independent news and production company in Christchurch, New Zealand. If you have a news tip or are interested in video content, email [email protected]

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