From 1 January next year, Old Mutual employees will have to submit proof that they have been vaccinated against Covid-19.
This follows similar announcements in September by Discovery Health and in October by mining service partner Fraser Alexander.
Old Mutual’s chief executive, Iain Williamson, said the company has a moral obligation to make decisions that will benefit the long-term well-being of its employees, customers and stakeholders.
“Across the world, vaccinations are proving to be the key to unlocking economic activity, returning life to a more normal rhythm, preventing severe illness and death, decreasing transmission rates, as well as reducing the emergence of new variants of the disease. We believe that mandatory vaccination is an important step to ensuring we create a safer working environment for our employees and our customers and contributing to the much-needed economic recovery,” Williamson said.
He said the company has lost 55 colleagues to Covid over the past 18 months and has seen an increase in claims as a result of Covid-19. The pandemic has cost Old Mutual about 25 000 “person days”, or 100 full time equivalents of productivity, due to self-isolation as a result of infections or exposure.
“This tragically high death rate and the negative impact on the mental and financial health of individuals, communities, schools and businesses compels us to take action. Ensuring that as many people as possible are vaccinated and protected against this threat is clearly the right and rational thing to do,” Williamson said.
In terms of its policy, employees will be able to object to mandatory vaccination on “valid grounds”. Each exemption application will be assessed on its merits by an exemptions committee.
Meanwhile, the Sunday Independent reports that some employers have started firing or retrenching unvaccinated employees, and Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) director Cameron Morajane has confirmed that the CCMA has so far received 10 referrals, which they have “redlined”.
The newspaper quoted human rights activist Schalk van der Merwe as saying that employees who reject forced vaccination are protected by the Labour Relations Act and the Constitution.
Van der Merwe said he has received more than 5 000 complaints of human rights infringements against employers who have forced their staff to vaccinate.
“We also have complaints of injuries coming through where people were forcefully vaxxed. Some are now suffering from organ failure, strokes and other illnesses […] There seems to be nearly 4 000 people that have been affected by vaccine injuries. And there are about 3 000 more people that I have to sift through and see if it’s a real vaccine injury or something else,” he said.
Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla told the newspaper the union has received complaints of workers being told by their employers that they must be vaccinated or face dismissal.
“We are intervening in those instances, including helping the workers to register their cases with the CCMA. We are also engaging those employers to reverse the dismissals and to persuade the workers why it’s important for them to vaccinate.”
Pamla said Cosatu supported the need for everyone to vaccinate, but it could not support the dismissal of workers.
“Cosatu believes a compulsory vaccine mandate is not helpful, and, in fact, a distraction. The only way to get people to vaccinate is to persuade them. Cosatu’s affiliates are working with employers through our shop stewards to engage workers to address concerns and resolve problems.”