COVID-19 vaccine mandates a legal and ethical quagmire for businesses

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With key parts of the economy poised to reopen, venues and businesses are calling for the government to mandate vaccination requirements to avoid them running the risk of a legal or public backlash.

One major Australian business grappling with the framework for reopening is Virgin Australia, the nation’s second largest airline.

CEO Jayne Hrdlicka told 7.30 one suggestion it was considering was akin to a “smoking and non-smoking section”, only now it would be a “vaccinated section and a non-vaccinated section”.

“We’re very optimistic about December and January,” Ms Hrdlicka said.

“We think Christmas is going to be a fantastic time in Australia

“I’d hope that by November, we start to see lots of state borders opening up.”

The airline has mandated that all of its 6,000 staff be vaccinated — a move that will be under consultation with the unions until next week.

“The vast majority of our people are very, very positive that we’ve taken the step because they want to know that they’re safe coming to work,” she said.

“And there are a handful of people who are quite frustrated, and we’ll work through with them their issues.”

The move is not unlike plans announced by NSW Police to mandate vaccines for its frontline staff.

However, Ms Hrdlicka is against “vaccine passports” for domestic travel.

“Vaccine certification is necessary to do some of those things around the world that may be necessary for us too, and there are lots of terms being used for that,” she said.

“But for me, there’s lots of different ways to cross state borders. And the notion of a passport to cross state borders feels quite tough.”

Vaccination requirements are part of the complex issues being mulled over by consumer-facing businesses and venues, which many say would be solved by a top-down government mandate, rather  than individual organisations wading through the legal and ethical quagmire of exclusion on vaccination grounds.

Paul Zahra from the Australian Retailers Association told 7.30: “We wouldn’t support mandating vaccinations without being legally indemnified.”

“What we don’t want to be doing is being in a position where we’re having to become compliance officers and actually have to pull people up at the front door [to prevent them] from entering a supermarket,” he said.

Businesses ‘barraged’ by anti-vaxxers’

One retail precinct is doing just that.

The Chapel Street Precinct in Melbourne has announced plans for a traffic light system to indicate a shopper’s vaccination status — one dose, both doses or no doses — with non-vaccinated shoppers barred from entering some of the precinct’s shops.

General manager Chrissie Maus said the plan had led to “death threats”.

“When people come into the business and sign in, it goes green, red or orange, depending on where you are [on] the vaccination scale,” she told 7.30.

“If it’s green, that means you can come in, have your hair done, have a drink with your girlfriends.

“I have been absolutely barraged by hundreds of anti-vaxxers. And I’ve had multiple death threats. I’ve had so many calls to my phone, email, private messages.”

Mr Zahra said without government backing, those plans should be implemented with “great caution”.

“We wouldn’t support that position without there being a public health order,” he said.

‘We’re definitely not going to discriminate’

Hair and beauty businesses, such as Mary Alamine’s chain of Sydney hairdressers Royals, expect to be the first to reopen when NSW is 70 per cent fully vaccinated.

“We have probably over 500 people that we need to call just from the waiting list,” she told 7.30.

In NSW, freedoms are promised only to those who are vaccinated.

Around half of Ms Alamine’s 50 staff have had at least one jab, well below the NSW average of 74 per cent, and she does not yet plan to impose a vaccine mandate for clients or staff.

“I’ve had my first jab already. So there’s no right or wrong, we’re definitely not going to enforce the vaccine on our staff or clients,” she said.

“Our main priority is the health and safety of our team and clients, of course. And so if it’s not a mandate, then we’re definitely not going to discriminate.

“We’re going to leave it up to them to decide whether they want the vaccine or not.”

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(Original ABC Article)