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Companies take to carrot and stick to vaccinate ‘hesitant’ staff

Rutam Vora Ahmedabad | Updated on July 26, 2021

Those who have not taken the jab face restrictions on access to the workplace

Abhishek Jain, an Ahmedabad-based insurance consultant in his early 30s, travels across the length and breadth of the city meeting clients. Concerned about his safety, his family kept pushing him to take the vaccine. But it was only after constant insistence from his company that he finally took the jab.

“The company is closely watching who has taken a jab and who are still left. We get daily reminders. There is no penal action, but the company strongly emphasises on it. I had to take it,” said Jain, who was reluctant to take the Covid vaccine. Global companies such as investment banking majors Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan Chase are reported to be pushing employees to get vaccinated to make workplaces safer.

Short supply

In India, too, be it manufacturing, services or in agricultural supply chain, companies are asking employees, associates and workers to take the jab. Some are incentivising it, others are dis-incentivising those not taking the vaccine, by putting restrictions on access to the workplace – and this, despite concerns over the short supply of vaccines. As part of an essential service, private insurer Bajaj Allianz General Insurance Company sees vaccination of employees crucial to keeping business continuity. Its Managing Director and Chief Executive, Tapan Singhel, informed that besides conducting free vaccination camps for employees and dependents at office and through hospital tie-ups, the company also ensured vaccination for contract employees, distribution partners such as agents, security personnel, and office support staff to “create a safe working environment”.

Over 70 per cent of all employees are vaccinated and Singhel looks to make it 100 per cent by August-end. “We believe in encouraging our people rather than dis-incentivising them,” he said.

Bajaj Allianz GIC has only allowed staff/agents/customers with at least one dose of the vaccine to the office premises. “We are also running weekly campaigns, ensuring focused calling, along with creating consciousness through business heads to ensure maximum participation in the vaccination drives,” said Singhel.

International development consulting firm IPE Global’s MD, Ashwajit Singh, said: “With one of every six staff member affected by the virus directly or indirectly and the fear of third wave looming large, we decided to allow staff to work from office only after they have furnished the certificate of first jab by June 30 and all jabs by September 30.”

This has been tagged with the annual performance indicators of each of the team lead. “There is an internal reward scheme running for those who are fully vaccinated within the timeline.” Already about 80 per cent of the staff have got at least one jab.

In the manufacturing space, vaccination of office staff and those at the shop-floor or production lines, is also being encouraged. India’s largest integrated denim fabric maker, Jindal Worldwide Ltd, has about 4,000 employees.

Convincing each one and ensuring they take a jab often becomes a tall task in large enterprises. Gaurav Davda, Head of Corporate Finance & Strategy at Jindal Worldwide, said: “Employees are being encouraged to take the vaccine and we see a large number of them have already gone ahead and taken the jab. There is no penal action for unvaccinated, but we push for more and more employees to take the jab. The government-driven awareness is also helping to remove vaccine hesitancy.”

Agri sector

The agriculture supply chain involves traders, loaders, farmers, brokers coming together at a single location such as APMCs. “But we’ve made it compulsory to either produce a vaccine certificate or get rapid test at the entrance of the APMC. This has helped us achieve 90 per cent coverage with at least first dose,” said Ashok Valunj, former director at APMC Vashi.

At the State level, too, Gujarat made it mandatory for commercial service providers, including shopowners and their staff, to get at least the first jab by July 31. Failure to do so would result in closure of the premises, the administration said, as more authorities adopt a carrot or stick approach to increase vaccine coverage.

Published on July 26, 2021

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