Qantas has announced it will soon require all employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, including frontline and corporate staff.
The airline has said from 15 November 2021 it will mandate cabin crew, pilots and airport ground workers to be fully vaccinated against COVID, while the remaining workforce will have until 31 March 2022 to get the jab.
Qantas noted that there will be exemptions offered to those who are unable to receive the vaccine “for documented medical reasons”, which the airline expects to be a “very rare” instance.
The policy applies to staff across both its Qantas and Jetstar brands, and the decision was made following consultation with employees across both airlines.
According to Qantas, 89 per cent of employees had already been vaccinated or are planning to be, at the time of the survey, while just 4 per cent were unwilling or unable.
Around three-quarters of respondents agreed that vaccination should be a requirement for all employees, and would be concerned if other employees in the workplace weren’t vaccinated, Qantas said.
Announcing the policy, Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said, “Having a fully vaccinated workforce will safeguard our people against the virus but also protect our customers and the communities we fly 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.”
“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,” Joyce added.
“It’s clear that 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.”
Joyce said, “Since vaccines became available, we’ve strongly encouraged all of our people to get the jab and are offering paid time off to get it done. We were really pleased to see from the survey that more than three quarters of those who responded have already rolled up their sleeve at least once and 60 per cent have had both jabs.
“Many of our people said they would feel concerned about working with unvaccinated colleagues, which is something that many workplaces across the country are grappling with.
“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 has long held the view that vaccines would be mandatory for all passengers aboard international flights, and recently called for compulsory vaccination for all aviation workers, due to the fact that they “come into contact with thousands of people each day.”
“Ever since a COVID-19 vaccine was approved the Qantas Group has strongly encouraged our people to get vaccinated and are offering paid time off to get the jab,” said the airline in a statement. “We’ve also lobbied government for priority access to the vaccine for aviation workers.
“We’ve done this not just because vaccinations are the only way to end the cycle of lockdowns and border closures, but because they are proven to be one of the strongest layers of protection against the potentially serious heath impact of this virus.
The airline has also introduced a slew of prizes and incentives to customers who get vaccinated, as the airline works to push up the country’s vaccination rates in an ambitious bid to see Australia’s international borders reopen by the end of this year.
“We want to do everything that we can to ensure the borders domestically open and stay open and that we get international up and running,” Joyce said at the time.
He noted that Qantas still has around 6,000 of its staff, dedicated to the airline’s international network, stood down.
“And they will be stood down until we have the international borders reopened,” Joyce added.
It also follows the news that Qantas officially pushed back its intended start date for international routes from October to December.
“We are still planning to be ready at the end of this calendar year. We are activating the aircraft, we are training our crew, the government has given us a support package to do that and have asked us to be ready,” Joyce told Sunrise.
The federal government has said it does not expect international borders to open up until mid-2022.