Why executives should weigh the pros and cons before paying workers to be vaccinated against Covid

While interest in vaccination against Covid-19 continues to decline in the United States, some companies decide to pay employees who get vaccinated as quickly as possible. For example, Walmart recently announced he was offering workers $ 75 to get them vaccinated.

While financial incentives could help end the Covid pandemic and get businesses back to normal as soon as possible, it is not a risk-free strategy for business leaders.

Preferred incentive

In investigation, when asked their preferred incentive to get the Covid-19 vaccine, money was the first choice among respondents.

  • More than two-thirds said they would accept a cash incentive ranging from as little as $ 10 to $ 1,000 or more.
  • One-third of total respondents would complete the immunization process for an incentive of $ 100 or less.
  • The remaining third of respondents said that money would not influence their willingness to be vaccinated. Paid time off was a distant second choice.

A delicate subject

John bair is the founder and CEO of Milestone Council, a dispute resolution consulting firm with 14 employees. Bair pays a bonus of $ 500 to each employee who submits proof of vaccination.

He noted that “… offering incentives for vaccination in the workplace… is a delicate subject. On the one hand, business owners are eager for a return to the office, a return to normalcy no matter what that may be like at this point. So it makes sense to encourage vaccination, the only course of action employees can take to help make this return as safe as possible for everyone.

“But on the other hand, employee immunization records are their personal health information, and we have to respect that. I never want to create a culture where my employees feel pressured to share personal information that they don’t feel comfortable sharing. From this thought process was born my approach: I offer a bonus of $ 500 to each employee who submits proof of vaccination. $ 500 is enough as an incentive where it’s worth employees, without feeling financially manipulative, ”he said.

According to Bair, “While not all business owners are able to afford every employee $ 500, it’s important to focus more on the essence of this approach. Know your employees and find out what’s important to them and within your means to offer them as an incentive.

The disadvantages of dollars

Write in the Washington post May 19, columnist James hohmann noted that “behavioral economists extol research which shows that people are more likely to get vaccinated if offered in cash. Duh! You don’t need a control group to tell you that. Research on human subjects suggests, however, that such gadgets can backfire.

“Sometimes offering payments for doing something makes people more suspicious and the behavior seems riskier. Plus, scientists say people are likely to need booster doses to protect against the newer variants. Distributing money now can accustom segments of the population to expect more benefits in the future. The freebies also don’t deal with mistrust or misinformation about vaccines, ”he warned.

Potential risks for employers

Just because business leaders can paying their employees to be vaccinated does not mean that they should.

Kate Bally is the Director of Labor and Employment at Thomson Reuters Practice Law. She said: “Employers offering very valuable incentives could face complaints of discrimination from employees whose disability or religious beliefs cause them to refuse vaccination. Additionally, employers offering large payments could face legal claims that they are effectively forcing employees to be vaccinated.

“As of this writing, the US Department of Labor has not specifically weighed in on financial incentives for immunization. To avoid potential wage and hour violations, employers should consider any money offered as part of a non-exempt employee’s regular rate of pay when calculating overtime. Especially for large employers, getting it wrong could be a costly mistake, ”she advised.

Bally also warned that “employers may also face legal challenges under the Employees Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) if the incentive program reaches the level of a benefit plan. For incentives offered under an employer-sponsored health plan, legal challenges may arise. Health Insurance Portability and Liability Act (HIPAA). In addition, national or local law may offer clearer or more stringent guidelines on providing incentives. “

Bally said: “For now, employers interested in offering incentives need to make educated guesses. With so many legal risks associated with inducements, a conservative approach is preferable. Small payments (less than $ 100), company loot, and time off are less likely to pose legal problems for savvy employers.

About Myra R.

Myra R.

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