PwC issues compulsory Covid-19 vaccination for returning staff

11 October 2021 3 min. read
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Professional services firm PwC has followed in the immediate footsteps of close rival Deloitte to issue a mandatory Covid-19 vaccination policy for all employees returning to the office.

Just days after Deloitte bit the bullet to mandate vaccinations against Covid-19 for all returning staff, Big Four rival PwC has followed suit. With offices in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra and Newcastle scheduled to reopen from early November, all employees, partners and visitors will require full vaccination to be present on site or attend work-related events. Employees elsewhere in the country will need to be likewise inoculated by January.

“From the date of reopening, all partners, staff, contractors, clients and visitors wanting to access those offices will need to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19,” PwC Australia’s head of people and culture Catherine Walsh stated in a memo to staff. “Similarly, partners, staff and contractors located in these locations will also need to be fully vaccinated to undertake any work-related travel, visit any client sites, or attend work-related events.”

PwC issues compulsory Covid-19 vaccination for staff

According to Walsh, a recent internal survey of two thirds of the professional services firm’s 8,000-odd Australian staff found that 97 percent intended to be vaccinated by the end of the year. While the local arm of Deloitte – which announced the equivalent mandate last week – didn’t divulge any results from similar polling, its US branch recorded a figure of 92 percent of staff who were already vaccinated, with the remainder refusing or choosing not to respond.

PwC’s US cousin has also introduced a compulsory vaccination policy, but backed it up with a work-from-home option for 40,000 of its employees (Deloitte Australia scrapped official office hours in July in favour of more flexible arrangements, but stopped short of offering full-time remote employment). Of note though, those employees opting to work virtually in the US will still be required to attend PwC office meetings on occasion, necessitating vaccination.

“The decision to require vaccinations is based on our commitment to the health, well-being and safety of our people, our families, our clients and our communities, as well government health directives,” Walsh said, after last week telling the AFR that the firm was still “exploring what Covid-normal looks like". Big Four rivals EY and KPMG have yet to commit to a mandate, but have previously said they are encouraging their employees to get vaccinated.

For PwC, that has meant setting up an internal vaccination program for its workforce, hopefully in place before Christmas. “As soon as we can get access to vaccinations, we will offer staff and their families vaccinations through work,” PwC CEO Tom Seymour said in August, adding that the firm wasn’t planning on mandatory jabs at the time. “That said, we are continuing to follow the advice of governments, and I do see a world where it is likely you will need to have a vaccine.”

In the same month, Sydney-based PwC partners Sally Woodward (an expert in employment law) and Norah Seddon (PwC’s People & Organisation leader for the Asia Pacific) published an article on the legalities and ethical issues concerning employer-mandated vaccinations. Factors raised included workplace health & safety obligations, contractual considerations, privacy concerns around personal medical records, and the potential for cultural discrimination.