21st September 2021 By Monique Steele | email@example.com | @foodtickernz
Auckland specialty grocery chain Farro Fresh will include a requirement for new frontline staff to be vaccinated against Covid-19 in future employment agreements in the wake of the Delta outbreak, according to chief executive Bryce Howard.
The grocery chain with six stores around Auckland has taken external legal advice on its proposed move to write in a Covid-19 vaccination clause to its employment agreements for public-facing store staff. A rollout of these contracts was expected imminently.
“We’re starting to write vaccine policies into our new employment agreements,” Howard told the Ticker.
“For future employment it will be a requirement within three months of employment to be vaccinated, if not then you will have the potential of being terminated.
“Currently we do not have it in any contracts, but we’re going through that [process] at the moment with lawyers and we will start to include it in contracts in the future”.
Employers can require vaccination as a term of new employment agreements and any variations to existing contractual terms can be negotiated with employees, according to Employment New Zealand.
Businesses cannot require any individual to be vaccinated, but it can require that certain work must only be done by vaccinated workers where there is a high risk of contracting or transmitting Covid-19.
“It’s really hard to make it retrospective to existing employees, but you certainly can make it a condition of new employees if they’re in areas where they’re likely to come into contact [with the public],” Howard said.
“We know that if we had an outbreak under health and safety employment, we will need to move [unvaccinated] people to a less risky role – back of house or a non-public facing role.”
Howard added that a “big vaccination drive” at the privately-owned grocery business resulted in more than 50% of its 450-strong staff being fully vaccinated and 80% having had one vaccine dose.
The company had access to an early essential workers code, shared information about vaccination centres with its employees, and incentivised with three hours paid leave to get each jab – even on the weekends – on top of a 10% Covid bonus.
“I do a video stream [to staff], it was every day for the first two weeks of lockdown, now every few days,” Howard said.
“It’s the best way to communicate to 450-odd people and the key message is around: vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate. Talking a lot about it – it’s the way to get us out.
“We’re also actively participating in the monitoring programme so we go off and get tested a lot. So we’ve had a lot of stuff stuck up our noses.”
A number of Farro Fresh stores including its Mt Eden shop were named as a location of interest from mid-August into September. Around 60 workers were required to self-isolate putting “immense pressure” on keeping stores open while short-staffed, Howard said.
The latest Ministry of Health advice was that customers and staff at locations of interest should self-monitor and get tested if symptomatic, with no requirement to self-isolate unless showing symptoms.
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