Employees divided over business incentives to be vaccinated against COVID-19

New data shows employers need to tread carefully

Employees divided over business incentives to be vaccinated against COVID-19

Employees are divided over whether businesses should be incentivising people to be vaccinated against COVID-19, according to a new survey.

The Lewers Vaccination Incentives Report found the majority (63%) of the 980 respondents believe it’s the government’s role to incentivise take-up of the COVID-19 jab, rather than that of businesses and private companies. 51% said they were sceptical about why businesses would be encouraging people to be vaccinated, and 42% said corporations should not get involved at all.

It comes as brands like Virgin, Qantas and Jetstar announced the launch of vaccine incentives in a bid to boost the take-up rate which will ultimately see the resume of international travel. Last month, Qantas was the first off the mark after CEO Alan Joyce said the airline would be offering a range of prizes to vaccinated Aussies, including ten golden tickets which grant a year of unlimited travel for a family of four. Virgin also plans to launch a ‘VA-X and Win’ competition once the population is vaccinated.

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In the US, a number of employers have rolled out financial incentives for vaccinated workers, such as vouchers and bonuses. Amazon employees who get the jab will receive an $80 bonus, and insurer Anthem will give vaccinated workers a one-time credit for medical premiums.

But speaking to HRD, Lisa Lewers, CEO of Lewers Research, said businesses and employers need to tread carefully when it comes to incentives.

“I think the overriding point from the research is that it's a really mixed point of view about whether incentivising really is a role for business or government, and while there may be some role for business, predominantly people still see it as being a government role,” she said. “The other important finding is that if a brand or a company is going to incentivise it needs to really be aligned with their vertical. For example, it makes a lot more sense for travel companies to be rewarding for vaccination, than a theme park or a bank for example, that hasn't necessarily been so directly affected.”

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The research also found a divide over whether incentives are needed at all or whether having the jab to protect the community is a civic duty. 53% said incentives from businesses are a “great initiative to encourage people”, while 49% said businesses shouldn’t be incentivising something that is a civic duty.

Last month, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) published advice stating Australian companies and employers could incentivise and advertise their own COVID-19 vaccination programmes.

“Businesses can now supplement Government public health campaigns through offers of practical support (including rewards) that encourage Australians to be vaccinated,” the TGA said. Incentives can come in the form of cash, gift cards, vouchers and other similar perks, with the exception of liquor and tobacco products.

But employers should be wary of how their incentives come across. There is a fine line between incentivising and bribing, and if the incentive is perceived as more than an encouragement, it could backfire for the company.

“Overwhelmingly people are in favour of vaccination but I think that behaviourally, people want to come to it on their own terms,” she said.

“I think for employees, businesses are better off acting as a facilitator, giving people choice, and saying, if you need to have time off work to get your vaccine, that's no problem. Employers must ensure it’s optional, not push a timeframe, and facilitate where people want to, but not coerce, where people don't want to. It’s also important not to incentivise beyond what might seem to be reasonable.”

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