News Telstra workers offered vaccine incentives
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Telstra workers offered vaccine incentives

Telstra has introduced an incentive for vaccinated workers. Photo: Sipa USA
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One of Australia’s biggest companies has joined the COVID vaccine push, offering a juicy reward to get a shot as soon as possible.

Telstra boss Andy Penn has sent out a message to all of the company’s more than 20,000 Australian-based staff, offering the equivalent of $200 for proof of vaccination

“Now is the time to act – to roll-up our sleeves and get vaccinated, or make an informed decision so you are ready when supplies are available to you,” Mr Penn wrote.

“I’ve had the jab and I know many of you have as well, but it is something I urge all of you to do, as soon as you can.”

In way of an incentive, he promised each fully vaccinated employee 200 Telstra ‘Appreciate points’.

Appreciate is an existing internal rewards program for workers that allows them to exchange points for goods and services – each point is worth $1.

Mr Penn said the quicker their workplace is vaccinated, the quicker the company will be “safer and stronger economically.”

“Never has it been a more important time for us to come together, to take action and show care for the country, each other and communities in which we live and work,” he wrote.

Telstra already offers paid leave to go and get a shot and for those who suffer side effects.

Everyone who has already got their jab will get the points.

Mr Penn also noted that some employees are not yet able to access the vaccine and said for that reason the rewards program would remain in place until December 31.

He encouraged staff to seek medical advice relevant to their individual circumstances and to speak to a doctor if they are hesitant.

Big business mandates vaccines

Telstra’s incentive scheme comes as other big businesses also put policies in place to get their workplaces vaccinated.

Qantas has taken more of a stick approach, on Wednesday announcing it would make vaccinations compulsory for all frontline workers.

Qantas and Jetstar pilots, cabin crew and airport workers will have until November 15 to be fully inoculated. The deadline for other employees is March 31, 2022.

The airline said it came after a survey showed three-quarters of staff backed the move.

Chief executive Alan Joyce on Wednesday said having a fully vaccinated workforce would help stop the spread of the virus.

“One crew member can fly into multiple cities and come into contact with thousands of people in a single day,” Mr Joyce said.

“Making sure they are vaccinated given the potential of this virus to spread is so important and I think it’s the kind of safety leadership people would expect from us.”

Exemptions will be granted for people with documented medical proof showing they could not be vaccinated. But this is expected to be rare.

“If other employees decided that they’re not taking the jab, they are deciding, I think, that aviation isn’t the area for them,” Mr Joyce said.

Morrison backs Qantas

The federal government does not intend to mandate vaccinations, with exceptions for specific industries including aged care.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison commended Qantas for the way it went about requiring vaccinations, but maintained the decision was one for individual companies.

“They [Qantas] have a reasonable position to be able to make this request and they’ve gone about it, I think, in a very engaged way,” Mr Morrison said.

The Transport Workers Union criticised Qantas for making making the announcement without a plan to ensure employees could secure a jab.

“Qantas’ own survey shows vaccine hesitancy is extremely low, yet Qantas has pushed ahead with another unilateral decision that will heap unnecessary stress onto workers,” TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said.

‘Vaccine passports’ for travellers

Qantas is also set to require international travellers to show proof of vaccination when people can fly overseas again.

No decision has been made about domestic passengers.

The airline is talking to its contractors who are interested in mandating jabs, but says it’s a decision for those organisations.

NSW, South Australia and New Zealand already require aviation workers supporting international flights to be vaccinated.

Qantas is the second non-health-related Australian company to officially require its workforce to have COVID shots.

Two weeks ago, Victorian-based canned food producer SPC was the first to say it would ban anyone from its sites if they did not have the vaccine.

SPC staff – including casuals, permanents and contractors – have until the end of November to get their coronavirus shots. Visitors to the company’s sites will also be required to be vaccinated.

Telstra has not ruled out mandating vaccines for some roles, but promised to inform workers if the rules change.

“We will continue to consider relevant government and health advice, particularly for our people working in high-risk locations and with vulnerable people, such as aged care, hospitals and Indigenous communities,” Mr Penn said.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has published a guide for businesses on how to encourage employees to get vaccinated, while mitigating the risk of legal implications.

Some of the suggestions include how to legally offer incentive programs as well as ensuring that all messaging is consistent with the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

-with AAP