Fonterra gets rid of vaccine mandate for unvaxxed workers, to use daily rapid antigen tests instead

A vaccine mandate was set to come into force next month.
A vaccine mandate was set to come into force next month. Photo credit: Newshub, Getty Images

Fonterra has got rid of their vaccine mandate for employers, allowing daily rapid antigen testing instead.

Fonterra is one of the biggest dairy companies in the world and employs over 10,000 Kiwis, however employment numbers may have dropped if Fonterra stuck to its strict vaccine mandate set to come into force next month.

The company said after reviewing their COVID approach they have tweaked it for unvaccinated employees that were set to lose their job from April 1.

"As we understand more about the latest dominant variant, Omicron, we have adapted our approach to those employees who remain unvaccinated on 1 April 2022," a Fonterra spokesperson said.

However, there is no mention of changes to contractors that were also included in the mandate.

Before entering the workplace every day unvaccinated employees will do a RAT test and if negative they can start work. Fonterra said daily testing is sensible during the current stage of the pandemic we are in, amid an Omicron outbreak.

A spokesperson said the change is a "reasonable alternative to termination".

Fonterra said the changing nature of the pandemic will likely trigger further reviews of their vaccine requirements and could mean new measures for employees that choose to remain unvaccinated in the future.

A company spokesperson said Fonterra's workforce is highly vaccinated and the decision was not made because of concerns of business continuity.

This is likely not the only review into the need for vaccine mandates, that were originally introduced in response to the reportedly more severe Delta variant.

Health Minister Chris Hipkins said last week that while mandates for critical workers may remain in place longer, the government could move sooner to scrap them for other industries.