Here’s how many workers support COVID-19 vaccine incentives, mandates

Employees are getting behind the idea that their employer should encourage vaccination against COVID-19, a new poll finds.

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The majority of employees (57%) think employers should offer vaccine incentives to employees and just over half (52%) think they should mandate it, according to a new survey of 1,006 respondents from Eagle Hill Consulting.

The support for vaccine mandates is up from December, when only 49% of respondents said they liked the idea of such measures, Eagle Hill found. Similarly, there is growing support for employers to continue requiring and encouraging masks, social distancing, COVID-19 testing and temperature checks at work, Eagle Hill noted.

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The research also finds that many U.S. workers (42%) believe their employer should wait to re-open until COVID-19 vaccines are more widely available to employees. About one-quarter (26%) say employees should be required to take a COVID-19 test before entering the workplace, while 37% say testing should be encouraged.

“All of this means employers must engage with employees at a deep level to understand their views and align decisions with employee preference,” says Melissa Jezior, the company’s president and CEO. “There will not be a one-size-fits-all approach, and it isn’t enough to just announce plans. Employers have to find the balance between ensuring a safe environment while not imposing requirements that will generate employee anxiety or animosity.”

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Related: Mayer: Don’t have a COVID-19 vaccine strategy? It’s time to make one

The survey results come as employers are deciding how to proceed with COVID-19 vaccinations, and if they will mandate or encourage inoculation among their workforce. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that employers can mandate employees to get vaccinated, with some exceptions, although experts predict encouragement and incentives will be the norm rather than mandating it.

Related: Employers can legally require COVID vaccines–but will they?

A growing number of employers are turning to incentives to encourage their workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Kroger, which has nearly 500,000 workers, said it will offer employees who get the vaccine a one-time payment of $100. Target is providing up to four hours of pay–two hours for each vaccine dose–to hourly employees when they get their vaccine. It also will provide all workers with free Lyft rides, up to $15 each way, to get to and from their appointments if they need it. Aldi, Dollar General and Trader Joe’s are all offering four hours of pay total for getting the two doses.

Research shows that financial incentives can be a smart strategy for employers to encourage vaccination. A survey from Blackhawk Network, a payments provider, finds that although some 40% of workers are either unsure about getting the vaccine or do not plan to get it, certain incentives could boost vaccination rates. For as little as $100, one-third of employees would agree to get vaccinated against COVID-19, the survey of 1,105 employees finds.

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Kathryn Mayer
Kathryn Mayer is HRE’s former benefits editor and chair of the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. She has covered benefits for the better part of a decade, and her stories have won multiple awards, including a Jesse H. Neal Award and honors from the American Society of Business Publication Editors and the National Federation of Press Women. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Denver.