One of the principles of a productive, robust workplace is diversity. But diversity of opinion on COVID-19 vaccinations is going to trigger enormous conflict in workplaces in Australia in coming months.
Here at Talent Butler, we’ve been fielding calls and emails from clients (both job seekers and employers) for weeks on how vaccinating (or not) will impact the workplace and hiring policies. So, we decided to run a survey on the sentiment around jabs and jobs.
We put the word out to 5,000 of our connections on LinkedIn and asked the question. Bold, I know.
“Should Australian employers now mandate staff to take a vaccine as a condition of returning to work?”
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The survey was seen by more than 17,000 people, 596 voted and hundreds commented.
So what did it tell us?
Firstly, staff health policies will likely change as a result of COVID-19. We’re also seeing more and more employees list their vaccination at the top of resumes; smaller businesses struggling with adapting to remote work; and recruitment volumes mostly unaffected by this round of lockdowns:
47% of respondents said they felt safer knowing an employer would mandate a vaccine for return-to-work;
36% were opposed to the idea of mandating vaccines; and
15% said it depended on the industry.
Unsurprisingly, the survey generated a bit of online conflict with commenters citing civil liberties and the importance of making an informed choice, while others discussed the concept of employer liability for medical harm and subsequent compensation if there was a serious side-effect.
We are a diverse recruitment business and place mid- to senior-level white collar staff with not only local employers but global brands and, it turns out, everyone has a different take on the issue. Subsequently, the comments under the poll showed a smorgasbord of views.
The main observation we have is that the lines are being blurred between an organisation’s corporate responsibility and social consciousness, and there is no easy answer to the topic of how prescriptive businesses can be about vaccinations in their workplaces. But this discourse will only get louder as governments seek ways to reopen society.
We asked one of our clients, Vantage Strata, to share their views with us.
Vantage Strata is a strata, facilities and onsite building management services company in the ACT and NSW with 58 staff based in either Newcastle or Canberra.
“As a business with corporate social responsibility, Vantage Strata is supportive of vaccinations and would encourage staff to adhere to the health guidelines. We have a responsibility to not just our own staff but for the tenants of almost 10,000 strata lots that we manage, and we don’t take that lightly,” managing director Chris Miller said.
Emerging trend 1: Degree, experience, vaccination status on CVs
Talent Butler is seeing an increasing number of candidates list their vaccinations on resumes, including which brand has been administered. It was previously unheard of for candidates to volunteer medical information to secure opportunities, which is a real first for us.
Speaking to other recruiting groups and employers, this now seems a regular occurrence — although we don’t see this sort of information being a genuine deciding factor in candidate suitability.
We see vaccine transparency as a growing trend of social cohesion, shedding light on the growing narrative of protecting others and doing what’s best for Australia considering lockdowns and social distancing.
Emerging trend 2: Small businesses struggling with remote work
While the majority of larger businesses currently have a home-based workforce, many smaller businesses are still partly office bound with strict COVID-19 compliance in play.
Employees in lockdown regions are treading a fine line between lockdown orders and meeting the needs of their employer, who ultimately puts food on the family table.
Emerging trend 3: Employment growth is unperturbed
Despite fears for increased unemployment during lockdowns, we are instead seeing a strong demand for talent in the pandemic and recruitment processes are going ahead unabated, though somewhat altered.
Employers have learnt to adapt to the unorthodox processes of operating and recruiting during the first lockdowns of 2020 so remote onboarding is now easily managed, and there is a feeling that we are on the right track towards normalcy in terms of recruiting volumes and growing teams.
We had 15 employer and candidate interviews last week alone, with all but two of these being held virtually. The in-person meetings followed strict distancing directives and mask wearing. The latter certainly make it harder to read body language, and in some ways virtual interviews are more telling.
Ultimately, there’s no easy answer for employers right now.
While the results of our poll were certainly divisive, it points towards a challenge within workplaces and as a society to balance the fears of those who have COVID-19 and vaccination related anxiety and for those who don’t. Businesses need to be cautious about how they handle the response, but they will also need to devise a policy relating to employee vaccination statuses.