COVID-19 vaccine: What SMEs should know when motivating staff to get the jab


Source: Unsplash/Louis Reed.

Businesses looking to encourage their workforce to get the COVID-19 jab should be aware of their privacy obligations and consider offering staff cash bonuses or paid leave. 

A survey by the job site Indeed found that only 37% of employees agreed that their vaccination status should be made public in the workplace.

Jay Munro, head of career insights at Indeed, says most businesses aren’t legally permitted to demand their employees disclose whether they have been vaccinated.

“It’s important to note that it’s not mandated that employers can ask for vaccination status but what they can do is give ethical nudges,” Munro tells SmartCompany.

According to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, employers can only collect information about an employee’s vaccination status in very limited circumstances, such as in healthcare settings.

Generally, information about an employee’s vaccination status is considered sensitive information, and an employer must seek consent in order to collect details about workers vaccination status.

Employers must also be able to justify why the collection vaccination status information is necessary for work-related activities, which may include preventing or managing COVID-19.

Munro says small businesses should focus on offering unbiased, trustworthy information from reliable sources and consider offering incentives.

Boosting uptake with bonuses

Following the Australian Therapeutics Goods Administration’s decision to give the green light to businesses to offer cash bonuses or rewards to both customers and staff to get the vaccine, more businesses began offering incentives.

HAG Imports was the first to offer fully vaccinated staff $100 Myer vouchers, and Melbourne cinemas Classic Cinema and Lido announced they would offer free popcorn and choc-tops to vaccinated customers.

Luxury Escapes took its rewards program one step further, offering $200 million in vouchers to vaccinated travellers. Co-founder and chief executive, Adam Schwab, said giving customers $200 vouchers was “an investment in Australia” that would contribute to the country’s reopening.

Indeed’s survey found 67% of Australian employers said they will offer some kind of incentive to motivate staff to get vaccinated, regardless of government legislation.

And, 46% of employees said they would be motivated by a monetary bonus for getting vaccinated, while 41% were motivated by a bonus of additional annual leave.

Munro says the survey shows employers should consider offering monetary incentives to workers, but notes that’s not always possible for smaller businesses.

“But even giving time during the work day to go and get the vaccination and potentially have the day off could make great strides,” he adds.

A return to the office

Currently, only 7.3% of the population are fully vaccinated but as that number rises, the question on many employers’ minds is whether they should require workers to return to the office.

Munro says there’s a lot of conversation around that now since “we’ve proven that it’s possible and it does provide good work-life integration for many Australians”.

Though he warns businesses from mandating a return to the office, saying that he has seen companies that require 100% or part-time attendance in an office lose candidates.

“The issue is that employees have shown that they can work from home and that they’re safe in their own controlled environment.”


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James Hill
James Hill
1 year ago

As an employer, I have to provide a safe work place.

I have very strict ‘unfair dismissal’ regulations to follow.

I cannot request my staff be vaccinated, yet some of my clients insist on this before my employees carry out work at their premises.

If an un-vaccinated employee becomes infected at my workplace, my business and me personally, will suffer the consequences.

Seems fair, let’s employ more staff.

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