The majority of hospitality businesses want to see COVID-19 vaccines made mandatory among their staff, a survey from industry body Restaurants & Catering Australia (R&CA) has found.
Some 63% of business owners said they would either like the federal government to mandate vaccination for hospitality workers, or they would like to be able to mandate vaccinations themselves.
Speaking to the ABC, R&CA chief executive Wes Lambert said the issue of mandatory vaccines is on “the hearts and minds” of business owners in this sector at the moment, as lockdowns continue all over the country.
“They have spoken loudly,” he said.
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“Their businesses are in desperate situations.”
While the survey did not ask for specific reasoning, Lambert says what he’s hearing from the community is a demand for stability.
“They just want their businesses to be open,” he said.
“They cannot survive with all these stop-start, stop-start, sawtooth lockdowns up and down, especially as we expect that it will take until the end of the year, if not possibly early 2022 before we reach that magic 80%.”
The survey also asked whether business owners would want mandatory vaccination for customers, too. There was a little more hesitancy here, with just over 50% saying they would.
Your average bar or coffee shop generally doesn’t have the capacity to check every customer’s vaccine status at the door, Lambert noted.
That also raises issues around privacy and discrimination.
And this is also the “hot potato” of mandatory vaccines for staff, he said. The three major issues here are around industrial relations, privacy and discrimination.
The vast majority of hospitality businesses, 93%, are small businesses, he added. After a rough 18 months, entering such murky waters comes with too much financial risk.
“There are no hospitality businesses that have come forward to say they’re willing to go the long fight with the fair work commission,” Lambert said.
Ultimately, hospitality businesses need guidance from the government.
“They’re looking, at a minimum, for an indemnity,” Lambert said.
“[So] that if they do decide to mandate the vaccine, they’re not going to be faced with the industrial manslaughter issues.”