Woolworths Group will hand employees $50 million in shares and gift cards as a reward for working at the company through the COVID-19 pandemic, natural disasters and protests in Hong Kong.
Over 100,000 full-time and part-time staff across Woolworths’ retail businesses will be offered up to $750 in shares each and a $250 Woolworths gift card. Casual workers will be offered an $100 gift card.
Only workers employed by the company prior to March 1 will be eligible, and those already participating in Woolworths’ short-term incentives can’t claim the shares.
Woolworths Group chief executive Brad Banducci said the payments are to thank workers for sticking with the company over a trying six months.
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“From protests in Hong Kong, droughts and bushfires in Australia, to the devastating volcanic activity in New Zealand and finally COVID-19, we have pulled together as a team to support each other, our customers and the communities in which we live and operate,” Banducci said in a statement.
“This has taken an enormous amount of hard work and dedication, and through our collective commitment we have indeed lived our purpose of creating better experiences together for a better tomorrow.”
About half of Woolworths’ workforce is eligible for the equity giveaway, which equates to about 21 shares based on the company’s current stock price of $35.03.
Additionally, casual workers who were employed by the company after March 1, including furloughed Qantas staff, will be allowed to keep their team discounts until the end of the year.
Retail workers have been subject to unprecedented risk in recent months manning checkouts and stocking shelves amid the height of the coronavirus pandemic in Australia.
As panic-buying gripped the nation in March, a flurry of reports surfaced about supermarket staff dealing with customer abuse and frequent breaches of social distancing guidelines.
The worker rewards are an about-face of sorts for Woolworths, which less than a year ago was apologising for a $315 million wage theft scandal that left many salaried staff short-changed.
The company is yet to finalise back-paying about 5,700 workers, but said late last year it had started the process.