The Qantas group has made it mandatory for all of its frontline employees to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus by November.
All cabin crew, pilots, and airport workers under Qantas’ umbrella must get both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine by 15 November, while all other employees have a deadline of 31 March 2022, Qantas announced in a statement.
Qantas will join international flight crews and airlines from other countries in mandating the vaccine.
“Having a fully vaccinated workforce will safeguard our people against the virus but also protect our customers and the communities we fly to,” said Qantas CEO Alan Joyce.
A single crew member flying to multiple cities can come into contact with thousands of people in a day, he added.
“Making sure they are vaccinated given the potential of this virus to spread is so important,” he said.
“We provide an essential service, so this will help guard against the disruptions that can be caused by just one positive COVID-case shutting down a freight facility or airport terminal.”
The move comes after a survey of Qantas and Jetstar employees that gathered 12,000 responses found 89 per cent were either vaccinated or planning to be, and three quarters believe it should be a requirement for all workers to be vaccinated.
This group also said they would be concerned if their colleagues weren’t vaccinated.
Acknowledging the concern, Joyce added: “We understand there will be a very small number of people who decide not to get the vaccine, and that’s their right, but it’s our responsibility to provide the safest possible environment for our employees and for our customers.”
Qantas will enter discussions with workers, health and safety representatives and unions over the next few weeks about rolling out the new policy.
Can your employer make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory?
The Fair Work Ombudsman has ruled that it would be reasonable for some organisations to mandate the vaccine.
Several Australian companies are already offering incentives for getting the vaccine: Telstra earlier this week said it would give staff the equivalent of $200 to get vaccinated. Bapcor is giving workers $100 gift cards, while Virgin staff can claim free tickets, frequent flyer points and business class flights.
Meanwhile, fruit and vegetable processor SPC was criticised after being the first Australian company to take the ‘stick’ approach and ban employees from coming into the workplace if they aren’t vaccinated.
Banking giants Commonwealth Bank and Westpac are taking part in the vaccine rollout, and Woolworths and Coles have secured priority access to the Pfizer vaccine for its frontline workers.