Australian business leaders are calling on employers to play their part in the vaccine rollout by offering incentives to workers to get the jab.
Jennifer Westacott, chief executive of the Business Council of Australia, said on Monday that the vaccine rollout needs to be accelerated and employers can help by offering incentives such as paid leave to their staff.
“Clearly, we need to roll the vaccine out fast and business is really willing to step up there,” Westacott said.
Many companies are prepared to give people vaccination leave, pay for their Ubers to travel to medical clinics, and ensure staff have access to trusted information, she said.
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“In the Business Council alone, our companies employ 1.5 million people. We could get a lot of information out to people.”
Online recruiter Indeed conducted its workplace vaccination survey in May, which found 67% of Australian employers said they would offer some kind of incentive to motivate staff to get vaccinated, regardless of government legislation.
Jane McConville, director at FiveSeven Consulting, says she encourages clients to adapt their existing employee-driven vaccine initiatives to the COVID-19 vaccine.
“For a lot of our clients, that means treating it the same as you would any other vaccine,” she says.
McConville, who helps businesses implement human resources and industrial relations strategies, says employers should adopt an approach that fits their business models.
“For small- and medium-sized business, it has to fit within their business model,” she says.
“They’re never going to have the resources of a large company but what they do have is a deeper connection with their staff that they can leverage around wellbeing,” she says.
When offering staff information about vaccines, McConville suggests employers should only share information from authorised and approved sources, such as a state or federal health department.
She also warns business to be mindful best practice privacy principles when collecting health information and other obligations around not discriminating against workers.
“Whatever initiative is being rolled out mustn’t adversely impact an individual who can’t or doesn’t wish to participate in that initiative,” she says.
Many employees are in favour of accessing paid leave to get vaccinated, with Indeed’s survey finding 46% of workers said they are more likely to get vaccinated if they could access paid leave.
Just under half of employees surveyed said they would be motivated by a monetary bonus for getting vaccinated.
Angela Knox, associate professor of human resource management and industrial relations at the University of Sydney, says any business that has the resources to schedule specific times for staff to get vaccinated or offer paid leave should do so.
Knox says people need the time to get the vaccine and, typically, that’s going to be available in work hours.
“It would be more accessible if [staff] can have time off to get vaccinated,” she says.
Along with information about the risks and benefits of vaccines, Knox says employers should consider providing their staff with information about how and where to get vaccinated.
“If it’s an easy process then it’s much more likely that people will go and get vaccinated,” she says.
Further information about workplace rights and obligations regarding the COVID-19 vaccine is available at this Fair Work website.