Healthy Incentives: Maine Bank Offers Employees $500 to Get COVID-19 Vaccine

Bangor Savings Bank is offering each of its 1,100 workers $500 to get vaccinated against coronavirus

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A lot of people are eager to get COVID-19 vaccines no matter what. But what if your employer said they would give you $500 for it?

Maine-based Bangor Savings Bank is now telling each of its 1,100 employees that it will do just that.

"This was something that was right for us to do," said Ryan Albert, senior vice president and director of human resources and employee development for Bangor Savings Bank. "It was probably about a month-and-a-half ago we started talking about this."

Albert explained that there was no connection to recent announcements from companies like Krispy Kreme, which is offering a free doughnut to customers who get the coronavirus vaccine.

Instead, the incentive is modeled after a program Bangor Savings Bank tried out last year where employees were given certain benefits if they received flu shots.

"We saw our participation rate triple from where it was the year before," said Albert. "This is really no different, but given how deadly COVID-19 has been, the stakes are so much higher."

The rationale behind the decision to offer the program is two-fold.

For the communities the bank serves, Albert believes the bank incentivizing vaccines could potentially accelerate a larger portion of the population reaching herd immunity.

But he said there is also tangible benefit for the bank's overall operation.

Having more employees vaccinated more quickly accelerates the bank being able to bring people back into the office, including a relatively new headquarters complex on the Bangor waterfront.

Right now, 65% of the Bangor Saving Bank workforce is working from home.

"Wanting to bring everyone back is certainly no indication of them not doing a great job, but we know we're a stronger bank when everyone's working with each other in-person," Albert said.

He added that bank leaders believe in-person collaboration and connection "on a human level" are important to the company's success, and that morale is higher when workers are physically in the office.

Asked if this type of model could work elsewhere, Albert said that "it's hard to speak for other employers, you have to look at what your ultimate goal is and make a decision that's best for your business."

During a media briefing on Thursday, Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC, was asked if state officials have developed any type of formal guidance for businesses interested in offering incentives for employees to get vaccines.

"I'm not aware of anything more systematic being rolled out, but that doesn't mean it won't, and it doesn't mean it's not," Shah said.

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