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Should Your Company Offer Paid Time Off or Other Incentives For Employees to Receive the COVID-19 Vaccine?

  • Some companies are giving employees paid time off or other perks for receiving the COVID-19 vaccine
  • Employers are typically interested in encouraging vaccination to promote a safer work environment
  • Such rewards can lead to complications if incentives are not offered properly

Summary by Dirk Langeveld

As COVID-19 vaccines become more widely available, employers must determine how their company will cater to workers receiving a dose. Businesses are often keen to encourage vaccination due to benefits such as a safer work environment, lower absenteeism, and improved productivity and morale.

A recently approved law in New York requires employers to provide employees with up to four hours of paid time off per COVID-19 vaccine dose. Some employers are also offering paid leave for workers to cope with the side effects of the vaccine, or even offering a small cash bonus to employees who get vaccinated.

The Food and Drug Administration does not mandate the COVID-19 vaccine, but guidance from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission advises that businesses can request that their workers provide proof of vaccination. The Centers for Disease Control also provides guidance for employers, including how some employees may request a medical or religious exemption from any vaccination requirements.

These exemptions can create complications for businesses seeking to incentivize workers to get vaccinated. Since those claiming a medical or religious reason for avoiding vaccination would not receive the same benefits as their coworkers, they might claim that an employer is being discriminatory. Employers might instead offer only a limited amount of time off to receive a vaccine, or “de minimis” rewards such as a sticker or water bottle.

Many employers are opting not to mandate that their employees receive a COVID-19 vaccine before returning to the workplace. A Census Bureau survey found that 84 percent of Connecticut employers did not plan to do so.

Employers can still opt to provide incentives to encourage workers to get a vaccine, but must be cautious in doing so. Consulting with an attorney can help you make sure you are acting properly.

Policies should be clearly communicated to employees, and employers must determine if they will require proof of vaccination as part of the incentive. Employers should refrain from asking any medical questions as part of this process, and should avoid any potentially discriminatory steps such as only mandating vaccines for workers above a certain age.

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