Thunder Bay

Timber company set to pay their employees to get COVID-19 jab

Staff and contractors for a national timber corporation are set to receive a new kind of bonus; one that will hopefully arrive long before the new year: a COVID-19 vaccine bonus.

Vaccine bonus just the latest workplace safety initiative, says business prof

EACOM Timber Corporation, which owns nine sawmills and two manufacturing plants across northern Ontario and Quebec, is offering its staff and contractors $200 to receive their first COVID-19 shot, and $150 to receive the second. (EACOM)

Staff and contractors for a national timber corporation are set to receive a new kind of bonus; one that will hopefully arrive long before the new year: a COVID-19 vaccine bonus.

The EACOM Timber Corporation, which owns nine sawmills and two manufacturing plants across northern Ontario and Quebec, just announced an incentive program to encourage employees and contractors to get their COVID-19 shot.

Those among the more than 2,000 eligible workers that choose to get fully vaccinated will receive a $350 bonus.

"The idea here is to say thank you for getting vaccinated, but also for all of the measures that our employees have dealt with since the beginning of the pandemic," said Biliana Necheva, a public-relations senior advisory with EACOM.

"As much as everyone else, I think we can all agree that we would like this over with as soon a possible, and so this kind of helps toward that goal," Necheva added.

The timber company hopes to see 85 per cent of their workforce vaccinated. However, they will also provide the bonus to workers that have demonstrated they cannot receive the vaccine for medical reasons.

The incentive program won praise from Unifor, which represents 140 members at EACOM's sawmill in Ear Falls, Ont., with national representative Stephen Boon commending the company's "leadership" in announcing the initiative.

"We are confident this new vaccine incentive program will now help achieve much needed long-term protection and security for both the employees of the Ear Falls sawmill and the entire community," Boon added.

Vaccine incentive latest twist on workplace safety initiative: professor

This is the first time Kathy Sanderson has heard of a company in northwestern Ontario paying their employees to get the jab, but the initiative doesn't come as a surprise.

"If we look at it from the perspective of workplace wellness and health promotion, it certainly isn't surprising in that we've seen organizations offering incentives to change health behaviour for quite some time now," said the assistant professor of business administration at Lakehead University.

Many businesses have had longstanding smoking cessation programs and other active lifestyle initiatives, such as step count challenges and gym membership discounts, that come with incentives and prizes. That could include an extra day off or cash, Sanderson said.

Kathy Sanderson, associate professor of business administration at Lakehead University, says there is a long history of businesses investing to improve health of employees. (Lakehead University)

Employers invest in these programs, the professor added, because there are advantages to having happier and healthier staff.

"Workers who are healthier, they come to work more often, they take fewer sick days, they're more productive, they are easier to retain," she said.

Sanderson said she could see more businesses hopping on the trend, because a high vaccination rate minimizes safety risks for the employer.

But she warned about the possibility of creating "negative social pressure" through the incentives.

"The concern is if it starts to have an aspect of maybe segregation or bullying that's attached to it, if people start comparing vaccine statuses."

The best way to avoid that, Sanderson said, is to do exactly as EACOM has done and keep the entire process confidential.

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