6 February 2022

New rules for wearing face masks in the red setting

Cavell Leitch


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These changes are a step up from previous regulations, so employers of vaccine mandated businesses should be prepared.
New Zealand Employment and HR
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The Government has doubled down on mask wearing requirements in the red setting of the traffic light system. The new requirements came into force at 11:59pm on 3 February 2022.

The changes

  • Face coverings must now be an actual mask that is attached to the head by loops around the ears or head. It is no longer acceptable to wear makeshift masks, such as scarves, bandanas or t-shirts covering the face.
  • Workers who are legally subject to vaccine mandates must wear a medical-grade mask while in a public facing role, such as health care workers and teachers. This includes the blue medical grade disposable masks.
  • A mask must be worn at all food and drink businesses, close-proximity businesses, events, and gatherings. A mask can only be taken off in these areas to eat, drink or exercise and then it must be put back on.
  • Students that are in year 4 and above must wear a face mask on public transport, including school buses.

What all employers should be thinking about

  • Whether any workplace policies should be created or updated to align with the new requirements.
  • Whether the workplace has a good supply of proper face masks on hand.
  • Whether employees know how to safely wear face masks, and for how long before they need replacing.
  • Whether any shops, chemists or PPE stockists in the area sell proper face masks in case of a shortage.
  • Whether employees need training on how to deal with difficult customers refusing to follow the new rules.
  • Whether any employees are exempt from the rule to wear a face mask. If that is the case, employers will need to also consider how they will request and hold that information, and how it will be properly communicated to other workers and the public, bearing in mind it is personal information under the Privacy Act 2020. Best practice is that employers should receive the employee's consent to disclose that they are exempt from wearing a mask before advising others.

These changes are certainly a step up from the previous regulations and we recommend that employers of vaccine mandated businesses are prepared for the new requirements and communicate with staff about these changes and what non-compliance will mean for them. We also recommend that all other employers and private entities consider implementing their own face mask requirements and policies.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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