Retail giant rewards employees with $50M in company shares

From pandemic pay hikes to one-off hero bonuses, retailers that remained open during the COVID-19 lockdown have rewarded thousands of workers with bigger paycheques and better perks.

But Woolworths, the largest supermarket chain in Australia, isn’t quite done saying “thank you” to its staff. After paying out a premium of AU$5 an hour to workers who served in the first 10 weeks of the pandemic, the company announced more bonuses are on the way.

More than 100,000 staff members across Australia and New Zealand are in line to receive a total of $50m in company shares as a reward for their commitment during the crisis.

Woolworths said it recognises the workers’ “extraordinary efforts and contributions during a year of unprecedented challenges”.

“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,” Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci said.

“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. We could think of no better way to thank and recognise our team than by making them shareholders in our group,” he said.

Full-time employees are entitled to $750 worth of shares. Part-timers will receive the equivalent of the hours of work they rendered. Employees can decide whether to keep or sell their shares.

Those who onboarded before 1 March are eligible to receive the company shares and gift cards, but they must not have received other short-term rewards from Woolworths prior to this program.

On the other hand, casual employees who joined the team after 1 March – or at the height of the pandemic – will only continue to enjoy a 10% employee discount at the supermarket chain through December. No direct reward for the group has been announced thus far.

In May, Coles, the second-largest supermarket chain in Australia, announced workers would receive a one-time bonus of up to $750 – also as a “thank you” for their hard work during the lockdown.

“We were able to move record volumes of stock onto our shelves so Australians could get the food, drinks and groceries they needed,” Coles CEO Steven Cain said.

A month earlier, rival Costco Australia said 4,000 employees were entitled to a bonus of $750 in addition to the company’s temporary wage increase of $3 an hour.

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