En español | As more essential workers across the nation become eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, some employers are taking steps to encourage these employees to get their shots. A number of businesses are paying their hourly employees for the time they would have to take off to get vaccinated or offering small stipends as an incentive to get the vaccine.
Generally, employers can require their workers to get vaccinated as a condition of keeping their jobs, with a few notable exemptions. But legal experts and health advocates say that most companies won't make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for their employees. Instead, they'll look for ways to make it easier for their workers to get shots.
For example, grocery stores, which were among the first businesses to implement COVID-19 safety measures such as mask requirements, are also the early leaders when it comes to offering to compensate their hourly workers for the time it takes to get vaccinated.
"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,” said Jason Hart, CEO of ALDI U.S.
To be clear, most employers are currently not directly providing vaccinations to their employees. Workers have to make their own arrangements for COVID-19 shots, the same as other residents of their city or state. Also, working for one of these companies does not necessarily mean getting earlier access to the vaccine. And while the financial support provided by employers could nudge workers who might otherwise be reluctant to sign up, it also may make other people wary of getting the shots.
In February, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), and 39 other business groups sent a letter to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) asking the agency to clarify whether employers could be held liable as a result of offering workers incentives to get vaccinated should something go wrong. The EEOC is reviewing the group’s concerns.
On April 21, President Biden asked all employers to offer their workers paid time off to be vaccinated. To encourage more small businesses to provide this benefit, the IRS is offering companies with fewer than 500 employees a tax credit to offset the cost of time workers use to get vaccinated.
Here are the employers that are now paying their workers to get vaccinated. Clicking on the name of the business will take you to an AARP Job Board page that shows current job openings at that company.
This discount grocery chain, which has more than 2,000 stores across 37 states, is offering its hourly employees up to four hours of pay — two for each dose of the vaccine. Its salaried workers will receive flexible hours so they can be vaccinated.
The national train service recently announced its goal to have all of its roughly 20,000 workers vaccinated for COVID-19. To encourage employees to get the shots, Amtrak is offering to pay them the equivalent of two hours of regular wages once they can show proof of vaccination. Amtrak also is allowing workers to take excused absences to recover from any side effects they might experience within 48 hours of receiving the shots.
The company, a yogurt and dairy products maker, said in a statement that it will cover up to six hours of time for hourly Chobani employees to get vaccinated. That's three hours for each of the two doses required for the COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized for emergency use.
This chain, headquartered in Orlando, Florida, operates 1,815 restaurants across the nation, including such well-known brands as Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen, Yard House, The Capital Grille, Seasons 52, Bahama Breeze, and Eddie V's. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Darden CEO Gene Lee recently sent a letter to employees announcing that the company will offer hourly employees two hours of pay for each dose of the vaccine they receive (four hours total).
The company will use an employee's earnings, including tips, over the most recent 13 weeks to calculate the pay rate, with a maximum of $20 an hour, the Sentinel reports. Darden currently employs about 133,000 hourly workers.
Saying that it doesn't want its “employees to have to choose between receiving a vaccine or coming to work,” this retailer announced in January that it is offering its hourly workers “a one-time payment equivalent of four hours of regular pay after receiving a completed COVID-19 vaccination.” Salaried employees will be provided with flexible hours to get vaccinated, if they choose to do so.
One challenge of gig work is that the companies that rely on gig workers don't typically offer health care benefits. During the pandemic, more than 500,000 people have worked as Instacart “shoppers,” picking up and delivering groceries to others. Starting Feb. 1, the company will offer eligible workers a $25 Vaccine Support stipend, which is intended to offset the wages they might lose during the time it takes to get vaccinated.
Any active Instacart shopper who has filled at least five orders in the previous 30 days and can verify they have received a COVID-19 vaccine will be eligible to receive the stipend.
JBS USA and Pilgrim's
This meat-processing giant currently employs 66,000 workers in the United States. It is offering its employees a $100 incentive bonus if they receive a COVID-19 vaccination. Last year, the company paid workers considered to be vulnerable to the coronavirus their full salary and benefits even when they were temporarily removed from the workforce to protect their health.
With more than 500,000 employees in 35 states, Kroger is the nation’s largest supermarket chain. It has announced it will offer employees a $100 bonus once they can show proof of inoculation. Employees who can’t get the COVID-19 vaccination for medical or religious reasons can earn the $100 bonus by completing an educational course.
The company also has announced that it will be giving all of its essential and frontline workers an additional $100 store credit and 1,000 fuel points for use at its Fuel Centers.
This discount supermarket chain — which has more than 125 stores across Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Virginia — is offering all of its employees $200 in extra pay if they get a COVID-19 vaccination. These workers also can request schedule flexibility to go to a vaccination appointment.
In March, Lidl partnered with CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield to offer all of its employees free access to comprehensive COVID-19 medical coverage.
The fast-food giant is offering workers at its corporate headquarters and its corporately-owned restaurants up to four hours of paid time off to get vaccinated. "Vaccination is essential in the fight against the pandemic, and we are actively encouraging McDonald's employees to take this important step," said Tiffanie Boyd, the U.S. chief people officer at McDonald's.
The company is encouraging employees to get vaccinated rather than making it a requirement.
This retail megastore is offering its hourly employees up to four hours of pay to compensate for the time they may have to take off to be vaccinated. The company also will reimburse up to $15 each way for its workers who take Lyft to their vaccination appointments.
This specialty grocery store chain will offer its workers two hours of their regular pay for each dose of the COVID-19 vaccine they receive. Trader Joe's will also let workers adjust their schedules to accommodate vaccine appointments.
Editor’s note: This article originally was published on January 27, 2021. It has been updated with additional companies and information about the tax credit for small businesses.