Legal risk just increased for the Westpac (ASX:WBC) share price

The Westpac Banking Corp (ASX: WBC) share price could find itself under the comfortable spotlight if it gets hit by…

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Westpac legal risk vaccinationA graphic illustration of a bank with a vaccine in the middle of it representing NAB's jab strategy.

Image source: Getty Images

The Westpac Banking Corp (ASX: WBC) share price could find itself under the comfortable spotlight if it gets hit by legal action for its vaccination policy.

The second largest ASX bank has become the latest S&P/ASX 200 Index (Index:^AXJO) company to make it mandatory for all staff to get the COVID-19 jab.

Westpac’s staff in NSW, Victoria and the ACT will need to be fully vaccinated by December 1 or risk losing their jobs. Employees in other states will be required to be fully vaccinated by February 1, 2022, reported the according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Westpac is first of the big banks to mandate COVID vaccination

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX: CBA) said that it will start consultation with its staff about implementing its vaccination policy.

The other two big banks, Australia and New Zealand Banking GrpLtd (ASX: ANZ) and National Australia Bank Ltd. (ASX: NAB) have yet to announce their vaccination policy.

But ASX banks aren’t the first to move on this front. Other large ASX shares have already announced similar policies for their staff. This includes the Telstra Corporation Ltd (ASX: TLS) share price and BHP Group Ltd (ASX: BHP) share price.

Westpac facing legal challenge risk to vaccination policy

The no-jab no-job mandate has angered some in the community. They argue that their rights are being infringed by such a draconian measure.

You only need to look at the angry protests by those working in construction to see evidence of this. Workers across several industries are threatening to challenge companies’ vaccine mandate in court.

But Westpac believes the vast majority of its staff will back its decision. The bank’s internal survey of 10,000 staff found that 91% have or intend to get vaccinated while 4% are undecided.

Of course, it only takes one anti-vaxxer to take legal action and spoil the party. Westpac has 76,000 staff.

Loophole for anti-vaxxers to exploit

Legal experts agree that such court actions are unlikely to succeed. There is legal backing for employers to require their staff to be vaccinated.

However, this also depends on the nature of their job. There could be a loophole if anti-vaxxers can show they can socially distance on the job and take over measures to stop the spread.

Legal standing yet to be tested

“With a large workforce, it is important that we have the safest possible work environment,” Westpac CEO Peter King said in a statement.

“Since the NSW outbreak started in June, more than 3,800 of our employees have been required to isolate and more than 280 branches have closed and re-opened, both significantly disrupting operations.

It remains to be seen if Westpac, or any other ASX company, will have their conviction bested in court.

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Motley Fool contributor Brendon Lau owns shares of Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Limited, BHP Billiton Limited, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank Limited, Telstra Corporation Limited, and Westpac Banking Corporation. The Motley Fool Australia’s parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia owns shares of and has recommended Telstra Corporation Limited. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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