Early Thursday morning, Shepparton-based company SPC became the first Australian employer to make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for all staff, including casuals, permanent and contractors.
SPC is requiring all staff to be fully vaccinated by the end of November in order to gain entry into any company location. This mandate is also extending to visitors to any SPC site.
SPC chair Hussein Rifai told the ABC the company had already implemented strong COVID-19 control protocols, but the Delta variant required a more stringent response.
“We believe that the only way that we can get out and protect our employees and our customers, and the communities in which we work is to go to the vaccine,” he said.
Staff will receive paid vaccination leave and up to two days of special leave to recover if they have adverse reactions to the vaccination. Employees with pre-existing health conditions who are unable to receive the vaccine will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
“A fully vaccinated workforce will ensure that SPC can continue to deliver an essential service while helping Australia return to an open economy in line with the Prime Minister’s four-point plan out of COVID,” Rifai said.
“Lockdowns are not a sustainable solution and the Australian economy needs to open up again.”
Located in the regional city of Shepparton in Victoria’s Goulburn Valley, Rifai said SPC were concerned that a workforce that was not fully vaccinated would put the small town and their community at an unnecessary risk of exposure.
The decision made by SPC will be a legal test case and potential precedent for other Australian companies looking to enforce a vaccination policy onto employees.
Other Australian companies have so far been hesitant to implement mandatory vaccination policies, but globally, SPC is not alone.
Last week, Google announced all employees returning to the company offices are required to be vaccinated, with Disney also mandating all salaried and non-union hourly workers who work on-site to also be vaccinated.
“Vaccines are the best tool we have to help control this global pandemic and protect our employees,” Disney said.
Other Australian based companies, including Qantas and Virgin, have been considering mandatory vaccination policy, however, according to Safe Work Australia, while companies have a duty of care to employees to minimise the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace, it would be unlikely to be “reasonably practicable” to require employees to be vaccinated.
Photo: SPC Factory Shepparton DSC_5556 by Apple and Pear Australia Ltd available HERE and used under a Creative Commons Attribution. The image has not been modified.