Qantas announced on Wednesday (18 August) that frontline employees – including cabin crew, pilots, and airport workers – will need to be fully vaccinated by 15 November 2021 and the remainder of employees by 31 March 2022.
There will be exemptions for those who are unable to be vaccinated for documented medical reasons, which is expected to be very rare.
The COVID-19 vaccine policy follows consultation with Qantas and Jetstar employees, including a survey sent to 22,000 people to seek their views on vaccination. About three-quarters of the 12,000 respondents believed it should be a requirement for all employees to be vaccinated and would be concerned if other employees in the workplace weren’t vaccinated.
In a separate survey of more than 1,000 Qantas customers, 92% said they expected Qantas crew to be fully vaccinated.
Thousands of aviation workers supporting international flights in New South Wales, South Australia, and New Zealand are already required to be vaccinated for COVID-19 by those jurisdictions. Multiple airlines around the world have also made it a requirement.
Announcing the policy, Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said having a fully vaccinated workforce will safeguard employees against COVID-19 and also protect its customers and the communities the airline flies to.
“One crew member can fly into multiple cities and come into contact with thousands of people in a single day. Making sure they are vaccinated given the potential of this virus to spread is so important and I think it’s the kind of safety leadership people would expect from us,” Mr Joyce 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.”
Mr Joyce said COVID-19 vaccinations are the only way to end the cycle of lockdowns and border closures and for a lot of Qantas and Jetstar employees that means getting back to work again.
“This was one of the largest responses to any survey we’ve conducted, even with thousands of our people stood down, which shows just how important this is for them,” he said.
Qantas has strongly encouraged all of its staff to get a COVID-19 vaccination since it became available and is offering paid time off work for vaccination.
“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,” added Mr Joyce.
One Qantas employee who completed the survey said they don’t want to work with anyone that has not had the jab: “Why should I come to work and have other co-workers that come make me sick?” they said.
Another noted that Qantas has a duty of care: “All employees need to be safe in the workplace. All employees walk past each other. We all have to be safe.”
Meanwhile, some of the more hesitant Qantas workers accepted the selflessness of getting vaccinated against COVID-19 : “It is not something I would have normally done but happy to do for a safe workplace and if it keeps me and my family safe,” they said.
The decision by Qantas and extensive survey results to support the policy decision could mark a turning point for Australian employers suffering from the current lockdowns.
My Business will be following the policy decisions of Australian businesses closely to keep all members informed with the latest developments.