Why some workers are paid extra to get the COVID-19 vaccine

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Employers say paying workers for a COVID-19 vaccine saves lives and money in the long run. Sarah Silbiger / Getty Images
  • Amtrak and other companies are paying additional employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
  • Company officials say the money is well spent because vaccinations can help reduce sick leave among their staff.
  • They add that healthy employees also ensure the safety of customers and the community as a whole.

All data and statistics are based on publicly available data at the time of publication. Some information may be out of date.

Get the COVID-19 vaccine and get paid for it.

It may sound too good to be true, but it is not.

Amtrak officials have ad that they authorize excused absences for employees receiving their COVID-19 vaccine during regular working hours.

Rail service will provide compensation equivalent to 2 hours of regular pay when employees submit vaccine documentation.

The transport company is not alone in its incentive plan, which encourages vaccination without obliging it.

Healthline asked companies to explain why they were taking this route and spoke with experts about the impact such programs could have on businesses, employees and customers.

Amtrak, Aldi, Kroger and McDonald’s are part of a growing list companies that reward their employees for getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

At the end of last year, the Commission for Equal Employment Opportunities updated its guidelines, noting that employers can implement mandatory vaccination policies.

However, labor law experts tell Associated press that monitoring compliance, handling potential legal claims and handling exemptions are factors that explain why some companies do not mandate them.

Incentives are a good way to encourage employees to get vaccinated.

Aldi does this by covering the costs associated with administering vaccines and offering employees 2 hours of pay for each dose they receive, up to 4 hours in total, as well as scheduling flexibility for salaried employees .

A one-time payment of $ 100 for the vaccine will be offered to all associates at Kroger grocery stores that receive recommended doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and have proof of appropriate vaccination.

Kroger associates who cannot receive the vaccine for medical or religious reasons will have the option of taking an educational health and safety course to receive payment.

In a statement to Healthline, Tiffanie Boyd, human resources manager at McDonald’s USA, said vaccination is essential in the fight against the pandemic and that they are actively encouraging McDonald’s employees to take this step.

The company will provide 4 hours of paid time to workers in company-owned US restaurants and employees in US companies who receive the vaccine.

McDonald’s will also connect employees with trusted third-party experts to provide information and answer questions about the vaccine.

Amtrak employees who are absent from work due to vaccine side effects will be excused and their pay will be protected for up to 48 hours after vaccination.

With the proper documentation, Amtrak will also protect the wages of employees who are unable to work more than 48 hours after vaccination.

Qiana Spain, Amtrak’s executive vice president and chief human resources officer, told Healthline that vaccinating employees has a positive impact on the communities they serve.

“We believe that the vaccine offers the best way to ensure the safety of our employees and to contribute to the well-being of local communities, and Amtrak’s goal is to have 100% of our employees vaccinated,” he said. she declared.

“As we do not have the possibility of offering mass vaccinations to our employees on site, we have offered the allowance to encourage them to be vaccinated by the means at their disposal,” said Spain.

The company developed this plan taking into account the experience of the last year.

“At the end of January, we paid over $ 15 million in wage protection to employees unable to work due to symptoms of COVID-19, quarantine, a positive test or side effects from the vaccine. Spain said. and we feel that as we continue to increase this, we expect that number to increase. ”

Spain added: “We estimate the payments for vaccines will be around $ 3 million. If this motivates employees to get vaccinated, it should reduce the cost of employees unable to work due to symptoms of COVID-19, quarantine, or a positive test. ”

A spokesperson for Aldi told Healthline that the plan is an effective way to encourage vaccinations, avoid sick leave and staff shortages, but also protect clients.

“By encouraging employees to receive this essential vaccine and reducing any obstacles that may stand in their way, we are able to support our employees who, in turn, can support our customers and the communities we serve,” said declared the spokesperson. “We are confident this will be a continuing trend in the industry. We are moving forward with our plan not only because we believe it is in the best interest of our employees, but we also believe that it is in the best interest of the communities we serve.

The spokesperson said it is difficult to estimate how many employees will benefit from the plan, but so far the response has been good.

“Employees have responded extremely positively to the news of our plan to help them receive the vaccine, with many saying they appreciate the extra time and flexibility,” the Aldi spokesperson added.

Keeping team productivity high is one of the reasons employers will consider introducing these types of incentives.

“In today’s retail work environments, customer service often involves a team of people all performing specific steps, such as an assembly line. The observed performance depends on the collaboration of all team members, ”said Ananth Iyer, PhD, MS, professor of operations management at the Krannert School of Management at Purdue University in Indiana.

“So any missing person could have an impact on the productivity of the team. In addition, anyone who is infected could have an impact on others. As the economy recovers, businesses need to ensure that there is sufficient capacity (people at work) to meet demand, ”Iyer said.

Companies with a stable workforce will be more profitable.

“If there is an incentive for their employees to be diligent and come to the immunization facility as soon as their turn arises, it decreases capacity volatility for employers,” Iyer told Healthline. “All this means a better match between their capacity and customer demand, and therefore more profits. “

And the ripple effect of an employee transmitting the virus in the workplace can greatly affect business operations.

“While most companies are already practicing social distancing etc., having an infected employee infect customers or other employees could have very bad results for the location,” Iyer added. “Paying incentives lowers this risk and can therefore be worth the cost. “

Putting the vaccine in people’s arms was always going to involve the carrot and stick approach, said Maureen miller, PhD, infectious disease epidemiologist and assistant associate professor at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York.

“The stick in the United States was established fairly early on, with the EEOC paving the way for employer-mandated vaccinations. Before using this aggressive strategy, which is likely to be the subject of legal challenges, employers should seriously consider using incentives, ie the carrot, ”she told Healthline, stressing various incentives such as paid holidays and discounts on insurance payments.

With the spread of new variants of the coronavirus across the country, the administration of these vaccines is now more critical.

“We are in a cat and mouse game between vaccines and variants. Due to the scale of the pandemic, over 105 million known cases (which can be 10 times underestimated), the chances of dangerous variants appearing and taking hold are enormous, ”Miller said.

“The only thing that will stop the mutations that create these variants, and the further spread of these dangerous variants, is to stop the transmission,” she said.

Vaccines have the potential to dramatically reduce transmission, she added, but only if we can arm them quickly and on a large scale, not only here in the United States but also around the world.

“The community spread of the coronavirus anywhere poses a huge threat to people all over the world. Anything we can do to speed up the process – mass vaccination incentives, events and parameters, mandates, if necessary, we should do it now, “she said,” before we end up at zero, having to vaccinate the world’s population once again against the new and more numerous variants.

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