Leisure giants Carnival, Tui and Virgin are among major travel firms enforcing ‘no jab, no job’ policies for staff amid fresh Covid-19 outbreaks on cruise ships.
Cruise companies are getting tougher over health and safety rules as they seek to rebuild bookings while attempting to curb the rapid spread of Omicron. The highly infectious Covid-19 variant is threatening to send cruise firms spiralling back to the early days of the pandemic when ships were taken out of service.
Early last year, thousands of cruise passengers were forced to quarantine amid a Covid-19 outbreak aboard the Diamond Princess, owned by Princess Cruises, which had to anchor off Japan.
Carnival’s UK cruise lines, Cunard and P&O Cruises, this month enforced compulsory vaccinations for their crew on board ships and 99 per cent of its staff have now had two jabs
Last week, Cunard, owned by FTSE250- listed Carnival Corporation, and Miami-based Royal Caribbean together reported a total of 58 cases of Covid-19 on cruises that set sail this month carrying thousands of passengers.
Carnival’s UK cruise lines, Cunard and P&O Cruises, this month enforced compulsory vaccinations for their crew on board ships and 99 per cent of its staff have now had two jabs. Similar ‘no jab, no job’ rules are now in place at Tui’s British cruise line Marella Cruises and at Royal Caribbean, the world’s largest cruise operator.
Virgin Group’s new Virgin Voyages cruise business is also enforcing the rule. In addition, cruise companies are asking passengers for proof of their vaccination status. Airlines have typically taken a softer stance on employees. FTSE100-listed Tui has so far not enforced vaccinations for crew on Tui Airways.
But Hungarian budget carrier Wizz Air gave more than 5,000 customer-facing staff a deadline of December 1 to be vaccinated. More than 90 per cent of its crew have complied. Virgin Atlantic, majority-owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, will only hire new crew who have been double jabbed.
Those taken on before the policy was introduced in late September are ‘strongly recommended’ to have two vaccinations. To date, only a handful of major UK companies have introduced ‘no jab, no job’ policies, which have proved controversial because they expose firms to potential legal claims.
The most high-profile are Pimlico Plumbers, founded by entrepreneur Charlie Mullins, and FTSE100 mining giant Anglo American, which plans to roll out compulsory staff vaccines beginning early next year.
Hungarian budget carrier Wizz Air gave more than 5,000 customer-facing staff a deadline of December 1 to be vaccinated. More than 90 per cent of its crew have complied
Employment lawyer Emilie Cole, a founding partner at Cole Khan Solicitors, said firms must ‘tread very carefully’ when imposing rules that go further than those required by government. Cole said: ‘A blanket obligation for workers to be vaccinated could well fall foul of the Equality Act.
‘If a worker has had serious side effects to the first vaccination or is not being vaccinated due to their disability, that’s likely to amount to disability discrimination. We are seeing a marked increase in concerns among people who believe their status as ‘unvaccinated’ is proving to be a blocker at work and they have found themselves first in line for potential redundancies.’
However, Richard Fox, an employment partner at law firm Kingsley Napley, said the risk of litigation for employers had decreased after the UK Government enforced vaccinations for care home workers from last month, with the NHS set to follow from April. Airlines and cruise firms are already racing to make sure staff have had boosters, raising the prospect of ‘fully jabbed’ being extended to require three vaccinations.
Virgin Voyages said it is encouraging crew to receive a third vaccination. Royal Caribbean said it is giving crew a booster as they become eligible, six months after their last vaccination. Tui said: ‘Fully vaccinated status is currently two jabs for all travellers and therefore we will keep this under review for our colleagues.’
British Airways and easyJet have not introduced compulsory vaccinations for crew. BA said it remains a ‘personal choice’ and Ryanair does not plan to make staff vaccinations mandatory unless it becomes government policy. The Unite trade union – representing cabin crew, baggage handlers and security staff – said all UK vaccination regimes should be voluntary. Figures from the jobs site Adzuna last week showed the number of ads asking applicants to be vaccinated against Covid19 rose from 805 in August to 2,324 in October.