If only the battle against the COVID-19 virus was just about defeating it through medical science!
However, the fabric of human society is far too complex for that. Social media, conspiracy theories and naysayers; disaster capitalism, scaremongering, violent public protests and vaccine hesitancy, are just a handful of the factors that have conspired to make the pandemic one of the most challenging global crises of recent decades.
As the pandemic has progressed worldwide, the responses to the pandemic of certain countries have been heralded as models for how other nations might tackle the problem. Sweden, New Zealand and South Korea have all been cited as leaders from which others could take inspiration.
Australia’s somewhat isolationist approach has been observed across the world. For some, it has been seen as quite severe in its attitude to international travel, which stranded many thousands of its own citizens overseas for considerable periods of time.
With the virus seemingly in retreat in nations leading the vaccination effort, it has become clear that countries lagging behind are disadvantaged in the speed of economic recovery from the pandemic.
Compare the fortunes of the UK and Australia. According to Our World In Data, the UK is ranked 8th, whereas Australia is ranked 35th out of 38 member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and there is clearly a lot of work still to be done down under.
The Australian government has made it mandatory for aged care staff from September, while quarantine workers in some states are already required to be fully vaccinated. However, there is much controversy attached to the policy of ‘no-jab, no-job’ being pursued by individual companies.
Qantas, probably the most internationally recognised Australian brand, has put such a caveat in place. With 8,500 redundancies, 2,500 staff stood down and about A$ 2bn in government financial assistance, the national carrier is well versed in the havoc that the pandemic has wrought on its operations.
Despite 89% of employees responding to a poll already or intending to be vaccinated, and three quarters agreeing with vaccination being mandatory, companies like Qantas implementing such policies may find themselves in contravention of employment law. 4% of Qantas poll respondents were unwilling or unable to get the vaccine.
There is much inconsistency and confusion attached to vaccine hesitancy. Social media, conspiracy theories and disinformation campaigns are largely responsible for people refusing to be vaccinated. However, side effects of the vaccines do warrant genuine cause for concern, despite the every low incidence rate when averaged across the total number of shots given worldwide. And Qantas is not being unreasonable – staff with documented medical reasons for not being able to be vaccinated would be given an exemption.
With a ‘no-jab, no-job’ policy likely to invite a legal bill and some reputational risk, few other companies are likely to use it as a route to preventing infection among staff and customers. So how can recruiters and their clients overcome the atmosphere of mistrust that accompanies vaccine hesitancy?
A strategy of combatting vaccine hesitancy could include a mix of tactics, such as:
The Australian HR Institute provides some excellent context and greater detail on how recruiters and employers can overcome vaccine hesitancy.
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