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New York Restart: Incentives encourage employees to get vaccinated

Curious about the best way to get everyone vaccinated and back to work? The general advice from lawyers, legislature, and experts is: create incentives.

Many employers advise that incentives work better than requirements. According to a recent New York state mandate, employers must give public and private sector employees four hours of paid time off for COVID-19 vaccine shots.

While employers navigate the new guidelines, questions remain about the exact implications. Employers are defining the details: how to track the timing of vaccinations, how to evaluate when it’s safe for people to return to work, and if mandatory vaccination policies are effective or problematic.

Cultivate Peace of Mind

As employers seek to create a safe, fair, and healthy workplace, they face many choices. Some employers prefer to require mandatory vaccinations. They believe this will provide peace of mind, encourage workplace ease, and promote collaboration.

However, there are legal, emotional, and ethical issues to consider.

While most legal experts agree mandatory requirements are technically legal, imposed policies can have unintended negative consequences.

The case for making vaccination an individual decision is rooted in personal and religious beliefs. According to a March 2021 Harris Poll, 69% of employees prefer incentives to mandates. 

The poll found a wide range of opinions regarding vaccinations:

7 in 10 U.S. employees believe vaccines should be required before workers return to the office.

9 in 10 employees said they’d prefer to continue working from home, even after offices reopen.

1 in 4 employees doesn’t plan on getting vaccinated.

1 in 4 employees would consider quitting if required to return to work without everyone being vaccinated.

Opinions on vaccination cover a wide and diverse spectrum of perspectives. 

Cultivating peace of mind may be the aim, however many employers feel that mandated rules may create the opposite. 

Encourage Participation with Incentives

The Harris Poll shows that employees prefer incentives for vaccinations. New York state law now requires that employers provide paid time off for vaccine appointments.

Some companies are going above and beyond the required mandate. Kroger offers employees a $100 bonus, paid with proof of COVID vaccination. Target offers paid time off, plus Lyft credits of $15 for travel to and from vaccination shots. Lidl is offering staff $200. Whether you are looking at the paid time for vaccination appointments or cash incentives, many employers find incentives motivate people to participate.

If you’re looking for ways to encourage your employees to get vaccinated, consider how to offer incentives and support participation.

Communicate Your Policies

Communicating company policies builds trust. With laws regarding the pandemic frequently changing, it’s essential to keep their employees up to date.

Business owners are using unique ways to keep employees informed of current policies. Updates on a company website, news briefs via video, and virtual town hall meetings are among the most popular ways to stay in touch. 

It is essential to update current hiring policies to attract talent and engage potential employees. Post your policies regarding background checks so that any prospective employee can make informed decisions. Employees want to know the requirements for a background check for job postings at your company. Do you require or encourage vaccination as part of your background checks? If so, be sure to clearly state your policy on your company website.

Listen To Your Employees

Many employers find that developing the best policies takes keeping an open mind and practicing active listening. CEOs are asking their employees for ideas, suggestions, and innovations.

Employees will give you valuable input on:

  • Best vaccine initiatives and incentives 
  • Ways to encourage workplace safety
  • Suggestions to reduce bias about mental health counseling
  • Top priorities for health and wellness in the workplace
  • Recommendations for background checks
  • Ideas for healthy work-life balance
  • Preferences for scheduling remote work

Involve your employees in the process of returning to work, and you’ll build a corporate culture of transparency and trust.

Move Forward Into The New Normal

Recently, country music star Dolly Parton was interviewed in the New York Times. Ms. Parton donated $1 million to the early development of the Moderna vaccine and passionate about immunization.

Upon receiving a dose of the vaccine she helped fund, she is quoted as saying, “I know I’m trying to be funny now, but I’m dead serious about the vaccine. I just want to say to all of you cowards out there: Don’t be such a chicken squat…get out there and get your shot.”

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