Global commodity producer Anglo American will require all employees to be vaccinated from next year, according to a report in the UK’s The Telegraph. It says an “internal update about the proposals states that employees will need to be vaccinated ‘to be able to perform their role’ and those who refuse may be let go ‘as a last resort’.” Anglo American confirmed the intention to Moneyweb.
The newspaper says documents seen by it “indicate that when introduced, the vaccine requirement will apply to all employees, contractors and any visitors to Anglo sites. It will also apply to all new joiners.
“The timing and implementation of the policy will vary around the world depending on differing national legislation. Exemptions to the policy will only be considered on medical grounds.”
If a vaccine mandate is introduced, The Telegraph says “Anglo would be ‘given a reasonable amount of time to get vaccinated prior to any consequences being imposed’.” The group has more than 95 000 employees and contractors globally. The Telegraph suggests that “Anglo is thought to be considering introducing a mandate now because of the improved availability of vaccines around the world. In its report, the company also references certain governments mandating vaccines for access to public services as a justification for the measure.”
The paper says the “company said that mine workers can be at risk of Covid due to the ‘inherent nature of some mining activities’ and that this also applies to office-based employees who ‘typically work in confined settings and interact in communal spaces’.”
The group has not yet disclosed vaccination rates across its total operations. Subsidiary Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), with 25 677 employees and contractors across its operations in South Africa and Zimbabwe, in October revealed that 59% of its workforce had registered to be vaccinated by the end of September. This equates to around 15 000 employees (and contractors). Amplats said 50% (±12 800) had received their first vaccination and 28% (±7 200) had received their second jab.
Anglo told Moneyweb: “In summary, its position is as follows: Anglo American is intending to introduce a policy that requires Covid-19 vaccination for access to all its sites and offices, with the continued objective of protecting our employees, their families, and communities as much as we can. Throughout the last 18 months, we have had strict health and testing measures in place across all our operations and offices, and have been strongly encouraging our employees to be vaccinated at the earliest opportunity as vaccines became available during this year. This has included setting up our own vaccination facilities, where permitted, for example in South Africa, to make it as easy as possible for our employees, given the breadth of our own health infrastructure there.
“Requiring vaccination for access is the next step, given that vaccination is the best defence available. To appropriately tailor our approach in each country, over the next few months we are carrying out a comprehensive engagement process with our employees and other stakeholders. Once this is complete, Anglo American will look to implement the policy, taking into account the feedback that we receive. We expect there may be differences in exactly how and when the policy will be implemented across the Group due to local contexts and legal requirements.”
Anglo would be one of the largest employers in South Africa to implement a vaccine mandate. Two other large, listed employers – Shoprite (120 000) and Pick n Pay (80 000) – have to date been silent on vaccine mandates. They have both only been “encouraging” employees to vaccinate.
Discovery took the lead among listed corporates, announcing in September that it would require all employees to be vaccinated from January. It said this week that 95% of staff had been vaccinated.
Private education group Curro Holdings and insurer Old Mutual followed. Sanlam has also mandated vaccinations but CEO Paul Hanratty has been on the record as saying that the insurer cannot force anyone to vaccinate, but “if you want to work for us you’re going to be vaccinated”. Momentum Metropolitan has said it won’t enforce mandatory vaccinations, but that it may need to move around employees who don’t want to be vaccinated.
Private hospital groups Life Healthcare and Mediclinic both announced in October that they would introduce mandatory vaccination policies for staff and providers. Netcare has elected not to make vaccines compulsory, telling BusinessLive it would take a different approach to its competitors. It hopes to persuade those objecting employees to get jabbed.
One trend emerging is companies which are quietly implementing mandates for staff as they prepare a return to offices early next year.
Moneyweb is aware of at least two JSE Top 40 companies that are requiring staff to be vaccinated in order to return to the office.
The country’s major banks have also all be silent on vaccine mandates.
A number of higher education institutions will require students and staff to be vaccinated by the time the curriculum starts next year.
There will, inevitably, be court challenges of vaccine mandates. Popular legal opinion suggests that employers will be able to implement mandates in accordance with their responsibilities outlined in the Department of Labour’s OHS Directive issued in July. This compels employers to ensure safe working environments for their employees and customers.
In most cases globally, companies have been able to implement mandates without infringing on existing laws or rights. Certain German companies, for example, have mandated twice-weekly testing for everyone, but employees could be ‘excused’ from this requirement if they volunteered their vaccination or recovery certificate. This is to ensure compliance with the country’s stringent privacy laws.
The pace at which government has moved on Covid-19 related matters over the past 18 months suggests that the “task team … on making vaccination mandatory for specific activities and locations” announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday may take some time to undertake its “broad consultations”.
Recommendations stemming from this will surely only be made to Cabinet in January.