More employers are turning to this incentive to encourage vaccines

More organizations are offering paid time off for employees to get vaccinated, according to recent research, though many employers don’t have a set policy on the COVID-19 vaccine or are still deciding whether they will implement one.

More than half (55%) of organizations are now giving employees PTO for getting inoculated and recovery time for afterward, according to the latest data from the Institute for Corporate Productivity, which surveyed employers in April. That’s up from 33% in March and 17% in January.

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Meanwhile, education on the merits and efficacy of vaccination is still the No. 1 incentive organizations are offering: 60% say they are doing so. Partnerships with vaccination providers, such as healthcare and pharmacy professionals, have more than doubled over Q1 (now offered by 23% of employers), and onsite vaccinations at company health centers have doubled as well (now at 21%). Offering cash, gift cards or other remunerative incentives remains the least-common option for organizations (8%).

The data comes as vaccination rates across the country are slowing, putting the onus on employers to do more to encourage employees to get the shot to improve inoculation rates and slow infection numbers. Despite this fact, most employers do not have a formal vaccine policy in place, according to the i4cp data: 32% say they’ve decided not to set policy, while 25% say they are discussing it but haven’t decided yet.

Related: ‘Shocking’ number of leaders aren’t focused on COVID-19 vaccines

Carol Morrison of i4cp

“While they represent great hope, vaccinations also demand close attention from business leaders. It’s one of the biggest challenges employers have right now,” Carol Morrison, i4cp senior research analyst, said earlier this month during a keynote session on COVID-19 vaccines at HRE’s Health & Benefits Leadership Conference.

It makes sense that paid time off for vaccination is rising: President Biden last month urged employers to give their employees paid time off to get vaccinated, telling organizations to “give employees the time off they need–with pay–to get vaccinated and any time they need–with pay–to recover if they’re feeling under the weather after the shot.” He also announced a tax credit to help smaller companies do so. For businesses and nonprofits with fewer than 500 employees, the tax credit will cover paid leave for up to $511 per day for up to 10 workdays, or 80 work hours, taken between April 1 and Sept. 30. “Every employee should get paid leave to get a shot, and businesses should know that they can provide it without a hit to their bottom line,” Biden said. “There’s no excuse for not getting it done.”

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Industry insiders have predicted Biden’s push will likely spur more employers to offer workers paid time off for inoculations, which in turn could help boost vaccination numbers. The announcement also comes at a pivotal time as all 50 states have recently made U.S. adults over the age of 16 eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Related: How NY’s largest hospital system tackled its vaccine strategy

Scores of organizations have taken that approach in the last few months. Aldi, Dollar General, Darden Restaurants and Trader Joe’s are all offering four hours of pay total for getting the two doses. Target is providing hourly employees up to four hours of pay–two hours for each vaccine dose–as well as free Lyft rides (up to $15 each way) to get to and from their appointments. Aon is offering all of its some 50,000 employees two days of paid time off for each injection.

“Business leaders seem to be approaching the vaccine issue with an abundance of caution,” Morrison said earlier this month. “This remains a fast-changing situation.”

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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.