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How Are Employers Dealing With COVID-19 Vaccines for Workers?

Employers are adopting different approaches to getting their workers to take the COVID-19 vaccine. Those efforts range from paying workers to simply encouraging them.

COVID Vaccine.jpegTrader Joe’s, Aldi and Dollar General have all opted to give employees who take the vaccine an hourly wage boost, while Instacart, an online grocery-delivery company, is paying its workers and contractors a $25 stipend for doing the same, NPR reports.

For Aldi, that means workers would receive two hours of wages for each of the two vaccine doses. The German-owned grocery chain also promised its workers that they will not miss out on pay while they are out of work taking the vaccine and that they will get financial aid to pay for the treatment. "Providing accommodations so employees can receive this critical vaccine is one more way we can support them and eliminate the need to choose between earning their wages and protecting their well-being," Jason Hart, CEO of Aldi U.S., said in a statement.

In announcing its pay incentive for employees who take the vaccine, Dollar General also noted that it would not make it a requirement. “We understand the decision to receive the COVID-19 vaccination is a personal choice,” the company said. “And although we are encouraging employees to take it, we are not requiring them to do so.”

San Francisco-based Instacart realized huge growth during the pandemic last year with its workforce growing to about 500,000 to address the demand for online grocery shopping, the Associated Press reports. “Our goal with the introduction of our new vaccine support stipend is to ensure that, when the time comes, Instacart shoppers don’t have to choose between earning income as an essential service provider or getting vaccinated,” Instacart CEO Apoorva Mehta noted in a statement.

The firm, however, recently announced that it would lay off 1,877 in-store “shoppers" next month, CBS News reports. Unlike the vast majority of Instacart’s gig or contract workers, the 1,877 are considered employees, and as such receive an hourly salary and benefits. Included among those being laid off are 10 shoppers who make up the firm’s only unionized workers.

Over 60% of U.S. organizations intend to encourage, not require, their respective workers to take the vaccine, Society for Human Resource Management research from December revealed. Meanwhile, 35% said they were not sure if they would mandate their staff to take the vaccine. When asked about mandating employees to vaccinate, 55% of organizations said they were not sure if they would require their workers to get the treatment prior to coming back to the workplace. Two-fifths said they would not require their employees to take the vaccine prior to returning back to work. The majority of workers, 64%, said they were likely to get the vaccine when available.

Employers that are incentivizing their workers to take the vaccine do need to think about some complications that can arise from such efforts, said Kevin Troutman, a partner at law firm Fisher & Phillips and co-chair of its national healthcare industry group.

“Many employers are considering ways to encourage the vaccine rather than mandating it, but even incentive plans can be tricky and must be handled in a nondiscriminatory manner that complies with applicable laws,” Troutman said. “For example, an incentive offered through a wellness program may require employers to consider alternatives for those who are medically unable to take the vaccine.”

A survey from i4cp, a human capital research firm, finds that 68% of 211 businesses and talent leaders polled last month plan to encourage their employees to take the vaccine, Human Resource Executive reports. About 20% said they haven’t decided yet and 5% said they won’t encourage their workers to get the treatment.

“Survey data shows that corporate decision-makers are more comfortable with encouraging, versus requiring, employees to get vaccinated,” said Carol Morrison, lead researcher on workforce wellbeing for i4cp. “Obviously, the need for the U.S. and nations worldwide to stop the spread of COVID-19 is paramount to saving lives, but also to restoring economies, re-opening—or fully opening—businesses, and returning people to good health and productivity.”

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