Covid 19 coronavirus: ‘No jab, no entry’ policies mulled as hungry businesses want to open up

Unvaccinated customers could be barred from entering shops, pubs, and restaurants if pressure to open the economy and Covid-19 concerns persist.

As the country moves away from the most restrictive lockdowns, business leaders are wondering how new policies banning unvaccinated patrons might evolve.

The debate about a “no jab, no entry” policy was starting before the “no jab, no job” issue had been fully resolved.

In New South Wales, Deputy Premier John Barilaro this month said businesses servingunvaccinated customers or hiring unvaccinated staff could face large fines.

In Victoria, major hotel and casino company Crown Resorts has had urgent discussions about mandating vaccines for the millions of customers it hosts each year.

Businesses in New Zealand were now seeking guidance on whether vaccines could or should be mandatory for customers.

“It is an evolving issue and something businesses haven’t had to face before,” Heart of the City chief executive Viv Beck said.

“You can hear people starting to talk about vaccine passports, because obviously people are keen to be getting open again,” the downtown Auckland business group CEO said.

Employment law advocate Max Whitehead said he was already hearing from businesses confused or worried about workplace vaccine policies.

The Whitehead Group managing director said once the first successful prosecution in a no jab, no entry case happened, the floodgates would probably open.

“I wouldn’t mind betting that some bars and restaurants … may be first off the rank to do it.”

He said a local outbreak or cluster centred on a pub or restaurant would be catastrophic for that business.

“I’ve had an employer ring me up and say they have a staff member who is unvaccinated, and they’re having pressure put on them by the contractor they have to rely on.”

The contracting company said it wasn’t happy working with businesses employing unvaccinated people.

“It’s very difficult for smaller employers.”

Whitehead said people who did not get vaccinated were likely to have their freedom of movement and lifestyle severely restricted in the near future.

Hospitality NZ president Jeremy Smith said no jab, no entry issues had been discussed but the industry needed Government to take the lead.

He said Australian examples showed there could be a push to bar entry to unvaccinated patrons and customers.

“It may evolve into that but right now, we’re about encouraging people to be vaccinated.”

He added: “We don’t want to be the policeman at the gate saying: Have you got a vaccination?”

If a new law clarified what the industry’s legal obligations were, Smith said that would remove one of many uncertainties plaguing the industry since Covid-19 emerged.

“We hate the fact that we can’t make decisions because we’re waiting week-by-week.”

Smith said with higher vaccination rates, New Zealand could avoid lockdowns which destroyed hospitality businesses.

He said the Government had clearly migrated from a Covid elimination strategy to one more geared to opening up society.

K3 Legal director Edwin Morrison said businesses were grappling with many scenarios about how to protect staff and avoid meandering legal battles over vaccination.

A no jab, no entry policy could face challenges from discrimination or harassment claims.

But Morrison said some bars and restaurants already restricted entry for various reasons, including age and dress code.

“It’s all got to be done carefully around health and safety.”

HeadQuarters Viaduct bar owner Leo Molloy last month said when his bar reopens, he will only serve customers with vaccination passports.

The no jab, no entry scenarios follow discussion about no jab, no job policies.

The Employment Relations Authority this month said Customs NZ was justified in dismissing an unvaccinated worker.

Morrison said a broader no vaccine, no job policy would not be legal now, but a law change would solve that.

“The government has a duty to respond … and make it lawful for business to adopt a hard-line mandatory vaccination programme, subject to exception on medical grounds.”

He said currently, employers could face disadvantage claims from employees worried about entering a workplace with unvaccinated staff and clients.

But businesses banning the unvaccinated from the workplace could face claims of unjustified dismissal or disadvantage.

“So an employer is damned if they do and damned if they don’t, as matters now stand.”

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