Health and financial services provider Discovery says that it is legally and morally obligated to implement a mandatory Covid–19 vaccination policy at the company.
The company announced on Thursday that it plans to move to a mandatory vaccination policy with effect from 1 January 2022.
In a discussion with employees on the policy seen by MyBroadband, the company said there would be an “engaging and meaningful process” for employees who object to receiving a vaccine against Covid–19.
During a media briefing, the company said that it will consider employee objections on a case-by-case basis whether on medical grounds, or for religious or other reasons.
It will not take a blanket approach.
Should an employee have a rational reason for declining the vaccine, Discovery will see if it can reasonably accommodate the staff member.
If Discovery can’t reasonably accommodate the employee without compromising workplace safety for others, it will move to terminate their employment.
Discovery currently has 12,950 employees across its healthcare, financial, and banking businesses.
Discovery Bank CEO Hylton Kallner stated in the media briefing that suppliers who operate in Discovery’s building will have comply with the company’s vaccination policy.
“We see them as an extension of our organisation,” Kallner said.
“We have an obligation to keep them safe, and ensure that the environment is safe for all our staff.”
Visitors to the Discovery building will also be required to be vaccinated, or have a recent negative PCR test result.
Discovery said that its approach is in line with major multinationals including Google, Facebook, Netflix, Walmart, Disney, Morgan Stanley, and BlackRock.
Discovery’s chief compliance officer, Jo-Ann Ferreira, said that they have tested their approach to mandatory vaccinations with experts and members of South Africa’s judiciary.
“We know it passes constitutional muster,” Ferreira said.
This is because they have followed an approach of mutual respect between employer and employee that balances the rights of all employees.
Ferreira said that their approach is in line with the updated Consolidated Direction on Occupational Health and Safety published by the Department of Labour on 11 June 2021.
She also said that the Constitution of South Africa allows for individual rights to be limited under extraordinary circumstances, like the pandemic.
In addition to its legal and moral obligation, Discovery said that the data around vaccine efficacy is incontrovertible.
It noted that with a vaccine, Covid–19’s risk of mortality becomes less than influenza.
Data from the company’s medical aid membership showed that vaccines were not only over 90% effective at reducing death, but were also effective at reducing infection and hospitalisation.
Vaccinated individuals have a 50% to 80% lower risk of contracting Covid–19 relative to the unvaccinated.
Vaccines also reduce the risk of being admitted to hospital by between 60% and 90%, and reduce the risk of landing in high care or ICU by between 70% and 90%.