Food and vegetable manufacturer SPC is the first Australian company to announce that all staff must be fully vaccinated for the CCP virus by the end of November or be banned from entering any company workplace.
The mandate covers everyone who enters an SPC company space, including all staff—casual and permanent workers and contractors—as well as all visitors.
SPC said the decision was made in part to ensure the well-being of their workers and the community against the highly infectious Delta variant.
“Lockdowns are not a sustainable solution and the Australian economy needs to open up again,” SPC Chairman Hussein Rifai said in a statement as reported by AAP. “The Delta variant poses a significant threat to our people, our customers, and the communities we serve.”
“The only path forward for our country is through vaccination.”
SPC is offering paid leave for all their workers to get the jab, including up to two additional days of special paid leave to recover from the vaccine if required.
For individuals who have medical exemptions against taking the vaccines, Rifai said the company would work through each circumstance on a case-by-case basis and they would not force people to take the vaccine if it would harm them.
However, those who make a conscientious objection to getting a vaccine will be banned from all SPC sites.
Many companies will also be looking closely at how SPC’s unprecedented decision affects their business and the legality behind it.
The Safe Work Australia website states that employers have a duty to do all that is “reasonably practicable” to minimise risk, and vaccinations should be considered as one method.
The website also states that making vaccinations a workplace requirement is not considered “reasonably practicable” for three reasons: public health experts have not made vaccines mandatory in most industries, vaccines may not yet be available to workers, and workers may have medical reasons to why they cannot get vaccinated.
However, Rifai said they considered their work part of the essential industry, which has the precedent of vaccine mandates for their workers from the government.
“So we are comparing ourselves to the essential services, such as the aged care and front-line people, that had to be vaccinated in order to protect themselves, protect people around them, and protect the community at large,” Rifai told the ABC.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said people and businesses will make their own choices on whether or not to get vaccinated.
“Well, there are lots of choices in how we deal with COVID-19 and people should have those choices,” Morrison told reporters. “Now, the legal basis for that, I’m sure they’ve taken advice about that—and that will be an issue that we watch very closely.”
He added that the Coalition supports people making decisions which deal with their concerns and their interests but “that’s always subject to the rule of law.”