Trust management company Perpetual Guardian will require both staff and visitors to be fully vaccinated before entering its offices.
The company, which employs around 250 staff, made the announcement via an email from chief executive Patrick Gamble.
In the email, Gamble explains his reasoning before stating that the mandate will come into effect from November 30, 2021, at all offices around the country.
An internal survey at the company showed that 95 per cent of staff are either fully vaccinated or would be within the coming days.
Gamble said that he did not make the decision lightly and considered a range of potential alternatives before determining that this was the right course of action.
“We have conducted a risk-based assessment for all roles within the group,” he said in the email.
“In all cases, our people are working in offices where they may mix with those who enter rest homes or healthcare facilities … The risk of exposure and transmission is high. We don’t believe we can reasonably mitigate that risk through social distancing etc, even if we mandated mask-wearing etc in all offices at all times.
“This is particularly true where the virus (and rapidly evolving strains) will be with us well into the foreseeable future.”
The issue of mandated vaccines has been contentious, but a number of major New Zealand employers have decided to roll out policies that require proof of vaccinations.
PWC and Russell McVeagh are just some of the other firms to be rolling out strict vaccination requirements, while the Warehouse is actively considering whether it should do the same.
Even within Perpetual Guardian, there were some staff who did not agree with a policy mandating vaccines.
The email details that nearly 20 per cent of staff at the firm did not support the move.
“Obviously, there are many different views within this group, including among those who are vaccinated themselves but don’t believe it should be mandated for others,” Gamble says.
“Through consultation and discussions, we are aware some people have concerns about possible tyranny of the majority, or about personal liberty and bodily integrity.
“Those concerns have significant merit and should not be ignored. However, it is clear that the country and our communities are being severely damaged by the continued lockdowns, and would be even further damaged if the virus were rampant, so those concerns need to be balanced against arguments of civic responsibility and public utility.”
Asked by the Herald what this meant for staff who refused to get the vaccine, Gamble said they would have to work remotely but also conceded that this was not practicable long-term.
“In the interests of honesty and transparency with our staff, we wanted to be upfront and say we don’t see working from home with zero office or client interaction as a viable long-term option within our business,” Gamble said.
“Eventually, it will impact people’s ability to do their job, and it is also unfair to ask those who are vaccinated to take a larger share of healthcare facility visits – and the potential risks those may involve – to allow us to carry staff who are not prepared to vaccinate.
“We will work through a careful consultation process with any such staff members.”
Perpetual Guardian runs branches in 16 locations around the country.
Under current level 3 lockdown conditions, staff and visitors cannot enter offices in Auckland and Waikato but in-person meetings are still possible elsewhere under level 2.
The new rules mean that any clients that visit the offices from 30 November will have to be vaccinated or resort to digital means of communication.
Gamble said that Perpetual Guardian is in the process of setting up its own procedures to ensure staff and visitors are vaccinated, but he’s also open to using the Government’s vaccine certificate system in the future.
Perpetual Guardian’s move coincides with the Government’s announcement today that it would be rolling out a traffic light system once DHBs hit a 90 per cent vaccination level.
Under that system, New Zealanders will be given more freedoms but this will largely be contingent on whether they are vaccinated or not.
In a 10am press conference on Friday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern urged New Zealanders to get vaccinated if they wanted to do the things they love.
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