Telstra wants to make coronavirus vaccination mandatory for many of its workers but appears headed for debate with those who may have valid reasons not to have the jab.
The telecommunications provider on Monday proposed about 8300 staff who have regular contact with customers and colleagues be vaccinated as a condition of employment.
In an email to employees, chief executive Andy Penn said Telstra served millions of people in metropolitan and remote areas and was obliged to protect them.
Telstra is proposing workers in people-facing roles have their first jab by October 15 and second by November 15.
Mr Penn said exceptions would be considered only on medical grounds.
Workers would need to provide medical evidence and have it assessed by a medical practitioner.
The company would try to find an alternative role for workers whose claims were justified. If another role could not be found, the worker might be medically retired.
Telstra officials will discuss the proposed policy for one week with staff, unions and customers.
A spokeswoman for the Communications Electrical Plumbing Union said Mr Penn should be wary of sacking workers who might have a genuine medical exemption to vaccination.
“The law doesn’t provide for this, public health measures do not provide for this and we will be challenging this quite strongly,” she said.
The union supports vaccination and has been lobbying employers for vaccination leave and incentives to get the jab.
In August, canned food producer SPC became the first Australian employer outside health care to require staff be vaccinated for the coronavirus.
Big businesses are taking different approaches to vaccination.
In August, Woolworths boss Brad Banducci baulked at requiring staff be vaccinated. He said the company was making vaccination easier by providing on-site clinics for staff.
Australia’s major airlines have taken a harder line, with Qantas looking to mandate jabs and Virgin Australia in the process of implementing similar rules.