An Update On Our COVID-19 Vaccine Policy
To our Perpetual Guardian Group community,
The past 18 months have seen sustained challenges posed to all New Zealanders as we’ve come to terms with operating in a post-COVID-19 world. The landscape for business operations has changed considerably over this time with significant disruptions to how we have been able to interact and service our valued client base. Like many businesses, we have looked at the options available to us to move back to business as usual, as far as possible, as soon as possible. Part of these considerations have focussed on what role a vaccine policy will play in our operations and we wanted to update you on steps we have taken to keep our teams, the wider community and you, our clients, safe. We recognise that ongoing uncertainty is adding to how difficult people are finding the current environment, so we want to provide as much certainty as we can, as early as we can, while still ensuring that we can continue to provide support and ongoing services to you.
As an employer, we have an obligation to provide a safe working environment to our staff. Given the nature of our relationship with our clients, we believe this extends to also providing a safe customer experience. Until recently, that would not have required a vaccination policy, but consensus on what constitutes a “safe environment” has evolved, and there is significant community concern about the risk that could be partially mitigated by limiting exposure to unvaccinated persons in the workplace.
We face an additional challenge in our business in that many of our staff regularly interact with vulnerable people and those whose health is otherwise compromised. This is true for staff in all our branches across the country, and our head office, which also provides client-facing services.
We are therefore particularly concerned to limit the likelihood that one of our staff introduces the virus to a rest home or similar facility. We have seen the devastating consequences of such an error in the U.K. and U.S. already and, unfortunately, this isn’t a far-fetched hypothetical: our people are in these facilities every week.
We have consulted with our staff on this issue and the response received was overwhelming. Across the group, over 95% of our people are either fully vaccinated or will be in the coming days. On top of that, over 80% of our people support introducing a mandatory vaccination policy across the group.
While we have strong support for mandated vaccinations, it is important to respect that nearly 20% of our people do not support such a step. Obviously, there are many different views within this group, including among those who have vaccinated themselves but don’t believe it should be mandated for others. 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. At a certain point, weighing all the competing arguments, we have to make a decision about what is right for the community, our clients, and our staff.
We have conducted a risk-based assessment for all roles within the group. In all cases, our people are working in offices where they may mix with those who enter rest homes or healthcare facilities. In order to control the risk of exposure and transmission, 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 evolving strains) will be with us well into the foreseeable future.
We will therefore be implementing a mandatory vaccination policy across all our offices from 30 November 2021
What this means for you
The safety of our people and our clients is of utmost importance.
We can confirm the policy requires all staff attending a Perpetual Guardian Group office to be fully vaccinated from 30 November 2021 (this includes all branches throughout the country and our subsidiary and sister company offices like New Zealand Trustees Services). Furthermore, we will not be allowing clients or visitors who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated to enter our offices from this date.
This is a big step, but one we feel is right for our staff and our clients. We realise we will have a number of clients who are not prepared to vaccinate at this time, and we are committed to continuing to offer support and continue to provide services to you. In addition, we also recognise there are some who understand their pre-existing health conditions prevent them from getting vaccinated. We have made a number of enquiries about this and understand that such situations are rare, but we will look to the government guidance on this. Our commitment to our clients remains firm and what we have learnt over the last 18 months is that the ability to engage and interact with clients does not need to be confined to face to face interactions in our offices.
Finally, I’m aware there may be some in the community who do not agree with our stance. This is a decision that has been made taking into account a number of factors, all of which need to be balanced against the safety and welfare of our staff and clients.
If you have any questions about this policy, its implementation, or our reasoning, please feel free to send me an email directly or to contact your branch manager to discuss your individual circumstances.
Thank you for your continued support,
CEO Perpetual Guardian Group