Wellness & Wellbeing

How Companies Are Handling COVID-19 Vaccine Incentives for Employees

COVID-19 Vaccine Incentives

Incentivizing employee health and vaccines is nothing new. Many organizations, especially hospitals and workplaces where close contact is a necessity, incentivize things like flu shots because it makes good sense. Others boost the incentive considerably by providing flu shots on site. COVID-19 vaccine incentives for employees may follow a similar path.

Health officials around the world tend to agree that the new vaccines should be distributed to as many people as possible to curb the spread as rapidly as possible. The new administration has set a goal of distributing 100 million doses to Americans within its first 100 days. Billions will be diverted to vaccine rollout efforts.

How Can Employers Help?

Employers, with direct access to large populations, have a vital role to play. ABC News Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton predicts that employers will “absolutely” be involved in vaccine distribution, and that we will see an “explosion of implementations” soon.

What does this mean for employers, and what will those implementations look like? That remains to be seen. There are legal limits to how much a company can mandate their employees to be vaccinated, but incentives are generally viewed as a safe way to promote them when done carefully.

How Frontline Companies are Handling COVID-19 Vaccine Incentives

In 2021, many organizations and some politicians are pushing for vaccine incentives to promote vaccinations where it’s needed the most, mainly in employee populations that perform essential services or must have regular contact with the public. As the rollout comes together, certain companies are having to face the vaccination incentive dilemma before anyone else.

The CDC voted late last month on recommendations for vaccine distribution. Healthcare workers and nursing home residents are the first recommended group, followed by grocery store workers, teachers, municipal workers, and citizens 75 and older in the second group.  

In turn companies like Trader Joe’s, Instacart, and Dollar General began offering modest incentives in 2021 for employees who get the vaccine and show proof. Instacart offers a simple $25 stipend while Trader Joe’s swaps two hours of pay for each dose taken. Dollar General reimburses expenses to get the vaccine, including mileage and childcare. Other companies like Chobani have begun offering extra paid time off for employees to get vaccinated.

Risk and Reward

This is tricky territory for companies to navigate with a pair of as-of-yet unproven vaccines and so many liability factors at play for both employees and employers. Any COVID-19 vaccination incentives will have to be doled out with a good deal of measure with special attention to how employees are responding along the way.

In the future, we may see COVID-19 vaccinations as commonly incentivized as annual flu vaccinations, but it’s too early to tell. Once the initial risk has subsided and we know more about how the vaccines are working, we will know more about workplace incentives as a primary vaccination strategy.

The CDC already has a comprehensive guide on helping businesses promote vaccinations, along with an explanation of benefits and guidelines and tips for safe and complaint incentives. We recommend taking a look for anyone considering launching a vaccine incentive for employees. Until then, take care and stay safe.

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