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  • Shepparton Partners Collective (SPC) becomes the first Australian non-healthcare company to mandate vaccines for all employees
  • The company says all its staff will need to be fully vaccinated by the end of November to be allowed into any of its company locations
  • The new rules come in light of the highly infectious Delta strain spreading around parts of Australia and the world
  • SPC Chair Hussein Rifai says the company’s decision is based on the science showing that COVID-19 vaccines have been proven to work
  • The company will make exceptions for people who are medically exempt from receiving a COVID-19 vaccination

Fruit and vegetable giant Shepparton Partners Collective (SPC) has become the first Australian non-healthcare company to mandate vaccines for all employees.

The food processor said this week all staff would need to be fully vaccinated by the end of November to be allowed into any of its company locations.

SPC Chair Hussein Rifai said the company had taken careful measures to protect employees and customers since the start of the pandemic. However the highly infectious Delta variant of COVID-19 means more drastic measures need to be taken.

“We had to do something drastic to ensure the infection doesn’t hurt our staff, doesn’t hurt our customers, and — just as importantly — does not shut down the communities in which we operate,” Mr Rifai told Nine’s Today show.

SPC said it would give staff paid vaccination leave to get their jabs, as well as two days of special leave if the employee is unwell after their shot.

Up until now, all Australian vaccine mandates have been imposed by governments for areas such as aged care and hospital workers.

As a private and independent decision, SPC’s new mandatory vaccination policy could become a legal test case for the rest of the country.

Mr Rifai said the company would make exceptions for people who are medically exempt from receiving a COVID-19 vaccination because it would be unsafe for them to do so.

“If they have a medical exemption, we will work around it,” he said. “We’re not there to force people to do things that will harm them medically.”

However, the same doesn’t go for people who simply refuse to get vaccinated.

“We work best on science. We’re a company based on science; we make food. Food is based on science,” Mr Rifai said. “Science says that the vaccine has been proven to work.”

Overseas, company vaccine mandates are becoming more popular, with tech giants such as Google and Facebook announcing just last week that all employees will need to be fully vaccinated before being allowed into offices.

Google and Facebook said the actual implementation of this policy would depend on local conditions and regulations, as well as the availability of the jab for employees in different areas.

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