Coles won't mandate Covid vaccinations for all staff nationwide

Coles has opted not to follow Woolworths by requiring all employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19, instead relying on health orders in some states.

Company leaders on Wednesday said they are encouraging staff to be vaccinated, but are not enforcing a blanket rule to get the jab.

Coles workers in the ACT, NSW, Victoria, Western Australia and Northern Territory are required to be vaccinated by either company policy or state laws.

However, team members in Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania are not compelled to do so under state laws.

Coles shoppers walk outside supermarket and hands hold Covid vaccine. Source: Getty Images
Coles said they are encouraging staff to be vaccinated, but are not enforcing a blanket rule to get the jab. Source: Getty Images

More than 70 per cent of Coles employees in NSW and Victoria are fully vaccinated, while more than 94 per cent have had their first dose.

Coles have set vaccination timelines for team members in NSW and the ACT, with the first dose being compulsory by November 5 and the second dose by December 17.

State orders 'highly successful' in increasing Coles staff vaccination rates

Coles Chief Executive Steven Cain told an annual general meeting the state orders had been highly successful in increasing vaccination rates among staff.

The supermarket giant has offered employees vaccinations at distribution centres and manufacturing sites.

Coles also provided paid leave for staff needing time off work to be vaccinated against the virus.

Last month, Mr Cain said that providing a safe environment for team members and customers was the supermarket’s top priority.

Coles shoppers wearing masks walk outside supermarket. Source: AAP
Coles said that providing a safe environment for team members and customers was the supermarket’s top priority. Source: AAP

“We have worked hand-in-hand with health authorities and adopted their recommended safety measures, allowing us to keep our 120,000-plus team members and millions of customers safe,” said Mr Cain.

“As people are able to circulate more freely in NSW, ACT and Victoria, health authorities have warned that Covid case numbers in these states are expected to increase, which also means a higher risk of positive cases visiting our stores,” he said.

“We have encouraged and supported our team members to access vaccinations as soon as they became eligible, to reduce the risk of infection for themselves, their colleagues and their families.”

Woolworths to enforce group-wide vaccination policy

Meanwhile, Woolworths flagged they would require Australian employees to be vaccinated, unless they have a medical or religious exemption.

"After careful review of the best medical advice, we've made the decision to require all of our team members in Australia to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19," said Woolworths Group CEO Brad Banducci.

"We have 170,000 team members across our stores, distribution centres and support offices, and more than 1,200 retail stores,” he added.

Woolworths sign outside store and staff member rolling up sleeve. Source: Getty/Woolworths Group
Woolworths said the staff vaccination policy will apply group-wide. Source: Getty/Woolworths Group

Woolworths said the policy will apply group-wide and cover Australian team members working in stores, distribution and online fulfilment centres, and support offices.

The proposed timeline by Woolworths for the full vaccination requirement in ACT, NSW, NT, Victoria and WA is January 31, 2022 and March 31, 2022 in the other states.

However, customers will not need to be vaccinated while shopping for essential supplies at supermarkets across the country.

Canned food producer SPC, Qantas, Virgin Australia and Telstra are among other employers requiring staff to be vaccinated.

As an essential service, supermarkets have been operating throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, with Coles reporting a profit during this time.

Coles improved full-year profit by 7.5 per cent to $1.01 billion for its financial year to June 27, while shareholders received a fully-franked final dividend of 28 cents per share – 0.5 cents more than the year before.

with AAP

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