Monday, January 24

Almost 95% of Discovery staff have received the Covid-19 vaccine

Discovery, the financial services and healthcare giant listed by JSE, says that at least 94.4% of its staff have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, bringing the total number of its employees vaccinated at 9,919, up from 2,177 when the group first announced its mandatory vaccination policy in early September.

The group reported on the progress of rolling out its mandatory vaccination policy at a virtual press conference on Tuesday, after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the establishment of a task force on Sunday that will study the vaccination obligation in the country.

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Discovery Group CEO Adrian Gore said what the company has accomplished so far is an indication that mandatory vaccine policies are working well to accelerate vaccine adoption.

“We are very satisfied with the strength of the mandate and the wide acceptance,” he said.

The group now aims to ensure that at least 97% of its staff are vaccinated by the time the fourth wave of Covid-19 infections rapidly approaches the peak, which has been estimated to be between late December and early January. 2022.

Read: Discovery to require all employees to be vaccinated starting in January

“The emphasis behind our decision is, in the first place, that we want to avoid deaths and this is a non-academic debate. The number of people vaccinated is critical to the number of deaths, specifically in the fourth wave, ”said Gore.

According to Discovery, 337 of its employees have opposed taking the vaccine to date, citing medical, religious, cultural and bodily integrity concerns as reasons.

The group said that so far none of the employees have taken the company to court over its mandatory vaccination policy.

Discovery added that those employees with objections that are deemed “justified” will undergo a reasonable accommodation process that will be tied to the respective employee’s role at the company.

Employees who are part of this process will be required to submit a negative Covid-19 test when working in the office. In addition, they will also undergo a Covid-19 test and will need to wear a mask.

“The frequency of your presence in the office is a determination that will be made in the context of the workforce model [Fully-office based, Hybrid, Majority remote]Discovery’s chief of staff, Zimkhitha Saungweme, told Moneyweb.

“We are also encouraging employees to explore alternate roles if their vaccine status does not meet their current workforce model,” Saungweme said.

Employees whose objections do not fall into this category will enter a three-step consultative process with Discovery that aims to understand employee objections. This is ultimately the group’s final attempts to persuade employees to get vaccinated.

The three-step process is as follows:

  1. Employees must submit objections in writing, whereby the discovery will involve and form an understanding of the employees’ position.
  2. Employee submissions will go through one of two subcommittee review panels: some will be filtered to the medical objections committee and some will be filtered to the constitutional objections panel. (Panels will include internal experts who will be supported by independent external experts).
  3. After passing through the respective subcommittees, the presentation of the employees will go through the panel of the general group committee that will review the decisions of the previous panels, ensuring impartiality and compliance with the principles of the policy.

“We designed a process in which in each step of the process we get involved, with mutual respect, but most importantly, giving our employees every opportunity to review their decisions and potentially choose to be vaccinated … We certainly want to support them in that regard” says Discovery. commercial director and head of the group’s Covid task force, said Dr. Ron Whelan.

Discovery employees who continue to hold their positions at the end of this process and remain unvaccinated at the end of the year will undergo a disciplinary process and will not be allowed to enter the group’s offices as of January 1, 2022.

Companies demand vaccination mandate

After President Ramaphosa announced his intentions to study the nationwide vaccine requirement, various agencies, especially organized business leaders, have come out in support of the measure.

Business for South Africa (B4SA) welcomed the president’s announcement on Monday.

The group said it supported vaccination mandates and the acceleration of efforts to regulate access to certain spaces for the vaccinated population.

“We need to move quickly to a situation where only vaccinated people can travel in buses, taxis and planes, or eat and drink in closed establishments such as restaurants and taverns,” said B4SA President Martin Kingston.

He said this would be in line with global restrictions and backed by science regarding airborne diseases.

“Ventilation and masks are still important, but now we must consider applying an additional layer of protection,” he emphasized.

Kingston also asked employers to implement vaccine mandates whenever possible to ensure the safety of employees and customers.

This is despite the legal implications employers could face.

“We all understand the constitutional rights that we have as individuals and we have no doubt that there will be an increasing number of legal cases, and we think that is a good thing because we believe that the sooner there is clarity, the better it will be,” Kingston said.

“South Africa cannot afford any more personal and economic pain … We have a responsibility to protect ourselves and our communities and to safeguard lives and livelihoods,” he said.

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