Flat White

Are companies sack-happy over vaccination status?

11 December 2021

12:00 PM

11 December 2021

12:00 PM

The Australian HR Institute is not an organisation we hear much from, and it certainly isn’t offering any competition to rent-an-opinion epidemiologists and public healthy types who corner the Covid commentary market.

But AHRI’s November survey of 760 HR professionals across Australia has thrown up some disturbing numbers about Covid and vaccinations in the corporate workforce.

It appears many employers are sack-happy when it comes to the Covid unvaccinated, mindful there is no legal prohibition of discrimination against staff, and job applicants, according to their vaccination status. Indeed, state governments across Australia are actively encouraging such discrimination, ostensibly in the name of keeping the community safe.

Some of the AHRI findings include:

  • 6 in 10 employers are making vaccinations mandatory for at least a portion of their staff, and three-quarters of these are making it mandatory for all staff.
  • 6 in 10 say vaccination status will influence their hiring decisions.
  • Of organisations who have acted in relation to unvaccinated staff, 27 per cent have terminated contracts; 27 per cent have created remote-only roles; and 8 per cent have been placed on leave or stood down.
  • More than half of employers surveyed acted on their own initiative, rather than relying on government advice or directions.

This wasn’t for a large proportion of staff. The survey found that only 6 per cent of staff overall were negative about vaccination. Most were willing to go and with vaccination and vaccine mandates.

Yet, conversely, HR managers were worried about skills shortages and recruitment problems. They sack staff yet can’t replace them.

The bottom line of these findings is that many, if not most, employers are willing to terminate, with prejudice, those who do not toe the vaccination line, and do not much care about the career and life consequences for those who, in good faith, do not get with the programme. Presumably, if the unvaccinated employee also has other employment-related issues, which would be caught up by discrimination and unfair dismissal rules, non-cooperation with vaccination mandates is a golden opportunity for bosses and HR managers to get rid of them, with minimal cost to the business.

Let me be clear where I stand on Covid vaccination. I’m double-vaxxed and I’ll get a booster, and I’m happy to do so for the common good. I don’t see a Big Pharma conspiracy to exploit fear to make humungous profits. Bill Gates can’t manage his marriage, let alone mastermind a global Covid conspiracy.

I weighed up the risks of the vaccines as best I could, and took GP advice, and still went ahead knowing there could be complications. And I don’t really understand why people won’t do it. In a world where, in probability terms, even crossing a busy road has far greater risks than these jabs, the balance of vaccine risk was, for me, worth accepting. It appears that 90 per cent plus of the Australian population is of similar mind.

But that’s what should make the vaccinated majority very uneasy. If mass vaccination has contained the risk of Covid spread, and certainly of almost totally avoiding the worst consequences for the vast majority, why can’t we accommodate the relatively few conscientious objectors with whom we might disagree, but who are still entitled to their views and principles? Why can’t we tolerate and accommodate their concerns, especially in retaining unvaccinated staff businesses can’t afford to lose?

It seems that compassion and common sense have flown out the window thanks to this pandemic, and that’s morally and socially dangerous. This is one area where the majority needs to try to understand the rights and concerns of the minority, and ensure that those rights aren’t flushed away down the sewer of mass hysteria. Conservatives, let alone libertarians, can’t stand by and let that happen without question. Yet many are.

It’s bad enough our state governments are over the top when it comes to a vaccine mandate, and that our national government is too afraid of electoral backlash to rein in the states’ worst excesses. But if this survey is accurate, many employers are even more gung-ho.

In the end, that prevailing attitude will be far more damaging to people’s lives, their self-esteem, and their ability to earn a respectable living, than any Covid outbreak.

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