Telstra is looking to mandate a number of its customer-facing staff to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by mid-November, multiple publications have reported.
According to reports from The Australian Financial Review, The Australian, The Guardian Australia and other outlets, Telstra chief executive Andrew Penn has told employees in an internal letter that it was “critical” that staff get inoculated against COVID-19 since a number of its technicians either work with vulnerable communities or enter the homes of customers.
The consultations involve staff, unions and Telstra partners.
Workers in Telstra retail stores are also expected to be included in the mandate, while those working from home won’t be included. The reports said some 8300 staff would be affected, with some 7200 already reporting their vaccination status.
“At this stage we are not proposing to make getting vaccinated a requirement for people who can work from home. But this is something we may consider down the track, particularly once more of us start to head back into the office and meet up in person,” Penn’s email read.
“I understand some people may choose not to get vaccinated – whether that is for personal or medical reasons. But given what’s at stake when it comes to protecting people’s health we would only consider exceptions on established medical grounds.”
The first shot will be required by 15 October and the second on 15 November, but Telstra said the dates can be flexible depending on supply. A $200 voucher is also available for those who have been fully vaccinated.
A report from The Australian said those who refuse the vaccine would be forced into “medical retirement”.
“As we approach what is typically disaster season in Australia, we hope that having fully vaccinated teams will help us more easily move people across state borders to assist should there be a natural disaster,” Penn said.
“I understand some people may choose not to get vaccinated – whether that is for personal or medical reasons. But given what’s at stake when it comes to protecting people’s health we would only consider exceptions on established medical grounds. In these cases we would ask for appropriate supporting medical evidence to be assessed by an independent medical practitioner, and we would do our best to find a suitable alternative role that does not require vaccination. If we are unable to find another role it may ultimately lead to medical retirement.
“In moments like this we have a choice to be on the right side of history. Often that involves finding our courage and taking a stand that may not always be popular with everyone. Incentives help, but we need to go a step further to protect each other, the most vulnerable in our communities and the customers we interact with each day.”
Last week, Telstra announced plans to provide fully vaccinated customers with incentives including Telstra Plus Points, while also launching its #LetsVaxx campaign. The campaign involves temporarily renaming the network as “Telstra #LetsVaxx” and a social media campaign dispelling myths around vaccines.