The High Court of New Zealand released a timely decision on workplace vaccine mandates on September 24, 2021.

In this case an employee of the New Zealand Customs Service was terminated from her employment for failing to comply with a workplace vaccine mandate.

The employee argued that the vaccine mandate violated the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act including her right to refuse medical treatment and her right to be free from discrimination.

The New Zealand government acknowledged that forcing the employee to choose between vaccination or termination was enough to engage her legally protected rights. The government had to prove that the vaccine mandate was a reasonable limit on individual rights that was justified in a free and democratic society.

In the result, the High Court agreed with the government that the vaccine mandate was a rational and proportionate response to the threat posed by the pandemic. The Court said:

“…I conclude that, to the extent that requiring affected workers to be vaccinated before carrying certain duties might amount to discrimination, the benefits of that requirement outweigh any discrimination and that the limitation is proportional and demonstrably justified.”

Why is this case of interest in Canada? New Zealand is, like Canada, a Commonwealth country and the two legal systems have much in common. The legal analysis that was applied by the New Zealand High Court is similar to the analysis that a Canadian court would apply if it was deciding the same issue.

You can find the full decision here.

If you are an employer or employee with questions about vaccine mandates then you can contact TGC.