BHP for example, says its mulling over whether to make vaccination mandatory at work sites.
The big four banks are also considering plans to mandate vaccines for those staff working in customer-facing positions, like branches and for those working in offices.
The banks are also waiting to see how a vaccination passport might work and what freedoms the unvaccinated will have to move around, enter shops, restaurants, pubs, and sporting events.
National Australia Bank’s chief executive Ross McEwan is considered to be the most likely to lead the bank pack. He stated publicly last week that the idea of compulsory vaccination for staff had not been ruled out but that the bank was ‘not there yet’.
He also called for the government to provide more details on how vaccinated residents would be allowed greater freedoms once Australia hit its 80 per cent vaccination target and even changed the bank’s logo from ‘nab’ to ‘jab’.
To date, the response from big business has been to encourage staff to vaccinate, to allow them time off to do so and in some cases to provide onsite vaccination and rapid antigen tests.
But the pivot point will arrive when the mass of staff that are working from home will be able to move back to the office. Some will be able to work primarily from home, but most will be required to show up at some time.
Companies will need to grapple with the near-certainty that vaccinated staff won’t want to be sitting next to unvaccinated workers. Despite the offer of vaccination carrots there will ultimately remain a rump of staff that will need the stick to get them over the line.
In NSW, the government has provided clarity on the new freedoms the vaccinated will receive after inoculation rates hit 70 per cent.
But once NSW hits 80 per cent, there’s confusing messaging coming from state premier Gladys Berejiklian and her deputy John Barilaro. The former is still insisting that the non-vaccinated will retain their community leper status once the state hits the 80 per cent vaccination level, while Barilaro has been telling radio listeners this week that once NSW reaches this level the unvaccinated get to join the rest at the pub, the footy and all retail outlets etc.
All of which only reduces the size of the carrot for those that have lined up to get the jab.
Berejiklian has tried to walk back Barilaro’s comments but suggested it could be up to businesses to decide whether they accept unvaccinated patrons, rather than a government mandate.
All of this will be particularly confusing for customer-facing small businesses – the group most damaged by the lockdown restrictions.
If large businesses with access to legal resources are hesitant about the complexities of mandating COVID-19 vaccination then spare a thought for the local café owner or hairdressing salon.
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