Qantas will make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for all staff from at least mid-November after a survey showed three quarters of staff backed the move, in a major step for one of Australia’s largest employers.
Frontline staff like cabin crew, pilots and airport workers will need to have gotten the jab by November 15, and the remainder of the airlines 20,000 employees will need it by the end of March 2022.
Qantas said it would consider medical exemptions.
“Having a fully vaccinated workforce will safeguard our people against the virus but also protect our customers and the communities we fly to,” chief executive Alan Joyce said.
“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 Qantas provided an “essential service” and, as such, it must help guard against the disruptions brought on by COVID-19, which has major states and territories see-sawing in and out of lockdowns.
“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,” he said.
Qantas is just the second major employee after food manufacturer SPC to make the jab mandatory, and follows a similar move from fly-in, fly-out airline Alliance Aviation earlier in the year.
It follows a survey of 12,000 Qantas staff members, which showed near 90 per cent of workers are at least partially vaccinated, 7 per cent declined to say whether they were vaccinated and 4 per cent are unwilling or unable to get jabbed.
The carrier said three-quarters of staff said the vaccines should be a requirement for all workers, and they would be concerned if others in the workplace were not vaccinated.
“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,” Mr Joyce said.
“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.