Carrot vs. Stick: Employers Look For Sweet Spot Between Vaccine Mandates And Incentives

COVID Vaccines

As employers consider whether to encourage staff to get vaccinated against COVID-19, several companies are providing examples of how it can be done. Employers are using several different types of incentives to encourage employees to get vaccinated. Some are using a carrot, others a stick.

Making it Convenient

Walmart encourages employees to get the vaccine at its own Walmart and Sam’s Club pharmacies. Employees can make an appointment or simply walk into the pharmacy. The company allows employees to get vaccinated while on the clock and receive two hours of paid time off to do so. Walmart also pays an incentive and provides up to three days paid leave for any possible adverse reactions to the vaccine.

Paying for Transportation, Vaccination

Target is paying its frontline team members to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The company is providing up to four hours of pay (two hours for each vaccine dose) to its hourly team members. Target also provides free Lyft rides (up to $15 each way) to get to and from their appointments if needed.

“As we have for the past year, we’ll continue to invest in our team’s pay and benefits so they can take care of themselves, each other and our guests,” Target’s Chief Human Resources Officer Melissa Kremer said when announcing the policy.

Allowing Paid Time Off, Flexible Schedules

Dollar General removes barriers to vaccination by providing its frontline, hourly store team members with a one-time payment equivalent of four hours of regular pay after receiving a completed COVID-19 vaccination. For its salaried team members, the retailer provides additional labor hours to compensate for their time away from the store.

Similarly, grocery retailer ALDI covers administration costs and provides paid time off for employees who choose to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The company will cover costs associated with vaccine administration and will also provide two hours of pay for each dose, up to four hours total. For salaried employees, ALDI offers scheduling flexibility.

ALDI U.S. CEO Jason Hart said, “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.”

Raising Insurance Rates for Unvaccinated Employees

A poll conducted by Eagle Hill Consulting suggests other ways to encourage vaccination. The management consulting services provider found that many workers support punitive actions for unvaccinated employees.

The poll found that 63 percent of workers say non-vaccinated employees should not be given special allowances to work from home, 51 percent say they should not be allowed to travel for work, 44 percent say they should not be permitted to work in person with customers, 41 percent say they should pay higher insurance rates and 40 percent say unvaccinated employees should not be allowed to work in person with co-workers.

“A large portion of the workforce is worried about the delta variant, and many employers are taking action,” Melissa Jezior, president and CEO of Eagle Hill Consulting, said when announcing the results of the poll.

Requiring Vaccination for Some or All Employees

Managed care services provider WellCare of New Jersey is requiring employees who directly interact with members to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The company is also requiring employees who do not directly interact with members to provide proof of vaccination or participate in regular COVID-19 testing. All new employees hired on or after Oct. 1, 2021 will be required to be vaccinated.

Walmart, too, is requiring some of its associates to be vaccinated. All market, regional and divisional associates who work in multiple facilities and all campus office associates must be vaccinated by Oct. 4 unless they have an approved exception. Walmart also reminds these associates that travel should be limited to business-critical trips only; it encourages them to participate in meetings virtually.

According to PYMNTS research, only 37 percent of Main Street businesses require their employees to be vaccinated, and only 42 percent of those who currently do not are likely to require vaccinations for employees in the future.

For employers who do not require vaccinations but want to make consumers feel comfortable going back into stores, there are examples of others who are instead offering incentives.

Also see: To See What ‘Normal’ Looks Like, Watch Main Street SMBs