Most not-for-profit organisations recognise that they have a moral duty to ensure the health and safety of their members and others who attend those activities. They have a statutory duty do so under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 if they employ one of more people.
The Covid-19 pandemic has created a dilemma for not-for-profit organisations, as well as, generally, significantly disrupting people’s lives in New Zealand (as well as elsewhere in the world). Most not-for-profit organisations have had their activities (involving not only their members but other people) adversely affected by both the pandemic and the restrictions imposed to seek to restrict the spread of the disease and its adverse effects. Despite Covid-related restrictions, most of those organisations seek to:
- Maintain their regular activities as much as possible, while
- Protecting the health and safety of their members, and, also
- Protecting the health and safety of those who benefit from their activities.
The fact that the Government aims to have 90+% of the adult population fully vaccinated, creates an expectation that organisations will seek to ensure that those who participate in or attend their activities will be fully vaccinated or be able to produce evidence of an exemption from vaccination.
- Some Government advice about events and entertainment is available here, and an Event Sector Voluntary Code has been developed by an umbrella group of organisations.
- Information about COVID-19 vaccine exemptions and certificates may be found at here, and applications must be made on an individual’s behalf by a medical or nurse practitioner.
Protecting the health and safety of those associated with not-for-profit organisations
Not-for-profit organisations can comply with their duty to keep people safe in the Covid-19 pandemic by:
- Complying with the directives of the Ministry of Health and other authorities,
- Ensuring that the places where their activities occur are safe for their members and for members of the public,
- Being aware of and complying with any conditions imposed by the proprietors of places where the organisation’s activities occur,
- Developing policies relating to the organisation’s participants and visitors signing in at places where its activities occur,
- Making decisions about whether or not to require participants in and visitors to the organisation’s activities be fully vaccinated or have a valid exemption from vaccination, and deciding how to monitor compliance with those decisions, and
- Providing their members with relevant advice and support.
Those duties mean that every community organisation needs to appreciate that:
- Some of its members will expect the organisation to keep them safe by insisting that members and visitors sign into a venue and also produce proof of vaccination or of a vaccination exemption.
- It may be asked to assure the owners or operators of venues it uses that it has proof of full vaccination of those coming to a venue (or proof of an exemption), and that means that every community not-for-profit organisation should consider asking those involved in its activities for proof of vaccination or of an exemption.
Creating sensible directions to protect people from Covid-19 infection
The following draft directions may assist community not-for-profit organisations to write their own notices to members and visitors:
The [name of community organisation] has legal duties and responsibilities to keep its members, and also those who attend its activities, safe from injuries and infections. The Committee of [name of community organisation] has discussed its duties to the organisation’s members and guests, and also the possible restrictions that may be imposed on the organisation because of the current Covid-19 epidemic by the Government or by those who control the venues used by the organisation. Having regard to those duties and possible restrictions the Committee has decided that those who participate in or attend its activities must:
- Be fully vaccinated or have an official exemption from getting vaccinated,
- Produce on request their “My Vaccine Pass” issued by the Ministry of Health or exemption, and
- Sign in when arriving at every activity.
As indicated above, the proprietor of every facility used by community organisations, and those organisations themselves, all have legal duties to keep people using the facilities safe from harm, including from possible Covid-19 infection. Essentially that means that everyone attending such facilities should be required to produce their “My Vaccine Pass” issued by the Ministry of Health or their exemption.
This is one of a series of articles about societies and charitable trusts by Mark von Dadelszen, a lawyer and author of Members’ Meetings, 3rd Edition, 2012, and of Law of Societies, 3rd Edition, 2013, (both texts in the course of editing for 4th Editions to be published in 2022).