Benjamin Harwood had worked for Whangamatā Golf Club Incorporated for a little over a year when he was dismissed in December 2021 following the club’s “no jab, no play” policy.
Harwood took the club to the Employment Relations Authority (ERA), arguing that the policy was “unreasonable and unfair” and failed to fairly consider alternatives to dismissal.
The club disputed this and said it went through a fair consultation process with Harwood about the vaccination policy and engaged with him regarding the consequences of his “non-compliance”.
However, in a recently-released decision, the ERA has ruled in Harwood’s favour.
The dispute began on November 2, 2021, when the club’s general manager Richard White and chairperson of the club’s governance committee Terry Wilson met staff to update them on the vaccination status at the club.
During the meeting, it was discussed that golf clubs throughout the country were moving to a mandatory vaccine policy for members and players following concerns about risks associated with the Delta Covid variant.
Staff members were asked to complete an assessment outlining the risk in their particular work area.
Harwood, whose roles included professional golf coach, director of golf and his role in the retail shop helping with customer service, marked himself as “low/medium” risk.
But White disagreed with this and replied to Harwood, giving him an overall rating of high risk.
This was met with a response by Harwood, outlining concerns that the assessment was generic and he had given an honest risk assessment.
Harwood followed up with a letter to White and the board, stating his employment agreement did not require him to undergo any medical procedures to carry out his roles within the club.
He also raised his concerns about the vaccine and referred to his rights under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.
Harwood wrote that the risk to any vulnerable people he may interact with during work could be managed, and he would self-isolate and get tested if he experienced any Covid-19 symptoms.
That same day White responded to Harwood, saying that all employees would be required to show a vaccine certificate and he would have to have his first vaccine by December 3.
If Harwood was unable to provide proof he had received the vaccine, then his employment with the club would end on December 26. He would be stood down on full pay and given four weeks’ notice.
On December 3 White wrote to Harwood giving notice of his dismissal, effective December 31.
Harwood expressed his disappointment with the board dismissing him and raised concerns that they had not addressed his previous proposals, and invited them to consider resolving the dispute.
Harwood said his dismissal had an…
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