Food manufacturer SPC has become the first Australian company to mandate employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccination.
The company will require all staff to be fully vaccinated by the end of November to gain entry to any company location, citing “the health and well-being of all staff and the broader community” as the reason for the decision.
In a statement, the company said its senior leadership team and board “recognise the significant threat the COVID-19 Delta variant poses to both the business and the broader Australian community”.
“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.”
Under the mandate, all staff – casual, permanent and contractors – must have at least the first dose of the vaccine scheduled by September 15, with the first dose administered by the end of October.
Visitors to any SPC site will also be required to be vaccinated.
Those with a pre-existing health condition who are unable to receive the vaccine will be considered on a case by case basis.
The company said staff will be aided and offered compensation via paid time off when required to receive their vaccinations as well as paid leave of up to two days for any staff who may become unwell after vaccination.
SPC – best known for brands including Ardmona, Goulburn Valley, SPC and Kuisine – is based in Victoria’s Goulburn Valley region.
It joins companies such as Disney, Google, Facebook and Netflix that have all made vaccinations a requirement to return to their US offices.
“Vaccines are the best tool we all have to help control this global pandemic and protect our employees,” Disney said, while Facebook says it will “continue to work with experts to ensure our return to office plans prioritise everyone’s health and safety.”
According to the Fair Work Ombudsman, “the overwhelming majority” of employers should assume that they can’t require their employees to be vaccinated against coronavirus.
However, it says, there are “limited circumstances” where an employer can.
This would depend on the workplace and each employee’s circumstances including but not limited to state and territory public health law or a clause in the enterprise agreement or employment contract.
The vaccination is already mandatory for all workers involved in the hotel quarantine program, and residential aged care workers.
‘The right thing to do’
SPC Chairman Hussein Rifai said he believed the mandate is “the right thing to do”.
“Lockdowns are not a sustainable solution and the Australian economy needs to open up again. 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.”
‘The only path forward for our country is through vaccination.’
CEO Robert Giles said that while the company had already implemented rigorous safety plans at all sites, “Australian companies must go further by rapidly vaccinating their staff”.
“By taking proactive steps now, we are shoring up our Company for the future,” he said.
“We firmly believe that it will be manufacturers and innovators like SPC who will help drive Australia’s post-COVID economic recovery.”