The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccinations across New Zealand in 2021 has caused disruption and unease across all sectors and the legal industry has not been immune to this disruption. As firms grapple with the challenges of implementing new COVID policies, make decisions on occupational health and safety, address employee well-being concerns and protect privacy, there is much to consider.
In preparation for the October webinar “Vaccinations in the Workplace” being facilitated by the New Zealand division of ALPMA, the NZ Committee decided to canvas the views of members as they relate to the rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations within firms.
The “Vaccinations in the Workplace” survey was distributed to ALPMA NZ members and the wider legal NZ community in September 2021. A total of 92 firms responded to this survey. The survey was conducted anonymously with limited geographic information being requested. Of these 92 firms, 48 supplied their location and these are summarized in the Firms by Region chart, shown below.
As the results indicate, we had a good spread of respondents from across the country. Notwithstanding that COVID has affected all New Zealand, some areas have been affected more so than others, for example Auckland’s longer lockdown. However, the results contained within this report include all responses received and do not exclude any regions or any results that did not disclose their region.
The Workplace Vaccination Rollout in New Zealand Law Firms
The survey results indicated that 54% of responding firms had experienced staff expressing concern regarding the vaccinations and this might help to explain why only 10% of responding firms have implemented a policy around vaccinations (including COVID-19). That said, a further 46% indicated they were planning to implement a policy but have not yet.
What was clear from the survey results is that 94% of respondents have wellness programs within their firm. This wellness program includes access to vaccinations and 80% of firms will make the COVID-19 vaccination available to staff as part of this program.
Interestingly, there are certain client facing roles that have been identified within firms that will require employee vaccination. Firms might be reflecting this within their recruitment processes, with almost 60% of firms stating they will ask prospective staff for their vaccination status.
At the time of this survey, the New Zealand government had not introduced a clear mandate for vaccinations within the office workplace environment but was strongly supporting for all individuals to be vaccinated across the country.
The issue for most firms seems to be the navigating the balance between providing a safe working environment for everyone and an individual’s right to privacy. This is something that all businesses are wrestling with across the country and no doubt many will be looking to our law firms to help everyone navigate a way through this.