Incentives and Vaccines: Companies Offer Perks for Vaccine Coverage 

After a strong push and a running start, recent reports show the COVID-19 vaccination rate for Michiganders has significantly dropped. In an effort to rally more residents to become vaccinated, many employers are offering incentives to workers if they are able to show proof of receiving the Pfizer, Moderna or the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. However, questions of bribery, ethics and security come to mind after several institutions have implemented vaccine incentives.

Companies across the country are offering employee perks to those who choose to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Announcing just this year, McDonald’s is offering employees both on a corporate and restaurant level up to four additional hours of paid time off. The grocery-giant Kroger will give workers a $100 bonus if any of the 500,000 employees across 35 states is able to present proof of vaccination. Darden Restaurants, the parent company behind eateries like Olive Garden and Bahama Breeze, will pay employees a total of two hours of pay for each dose of the vaccine, totaling four hours of extra pay.

Corporations are not the only entities looking to provide a reward in exchange for the vaccine. Colleges and universities across America are offering perks to students and allowing them back on campus for their vaccination. UNC Greensboro in North Carolina recently concluded a raffle that would give winners 10 free meals in the school’s cafeterias, ten text book scholarships to cover the cost of books for class and one lucky student will win free housing for the upcoming 2021-2022 school year.

Locally, Wayne State University announced the school will upload $10 to students’ accounts if they are able to upload proof of vaccination by the May 7, 2021, deadline. Once uploaded, the funds will be able to be used immediately. Students are welcome to get the vaccine at the school’s student clinic or anywhere else vaccines are being offered.

“We’ve continued to meet to discuss all matters of issues related to COVID-19, the pandemic and what we should be doing in response as a university,” says M. Roy Wilson, president of Wayne State University. “I asked the group to think about just a minimal incentive that would thank students for getting vaccinated and kind of nudge them just a little bit.”

With over 26,000 students enrolled as of fall 2020, the university could potentially pay over $250,000 dollars assuming every student takes advantage of the incentive, sparking questions of where the funds will be sourced from.

“The Dean of Students office has a student activities fund so we are using that source,” says President Wilson.

The Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) is also offering teachers and other qualified personnel the opportunity to earn an additional $500 for proof of complete vaccination. Recently announced in a letter, Superintendent for DPSCD Nikolai Vitti also stated teachers would earn extra sick days in addition to the financial gain.

Although many companies and institutions are offering incentives for the vaccine, there still exists a strong hesitancy from workers who have yet to decide their stance on the vaccine. According to research conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management in February, despite the push from employers to become vaccinated, 28 percent reported they would still choose not to get the vaccine, even if it meant losing their jobs.

“Our research shows a stark divide in perceptions surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine. We could see a real ‘vaccine vortex’ and a potential financial firestorm impacting employers who need a vaccinated workforce to sustain their enterprises, and those who are likely to avoid the vaccine at all costs,” says Alex Alonso, Ph.D., SHRM Chief Knowledge Officer. “The number of employees who indicate they will not get the vaccine, even at the risk of losing their job, coupled with the large number of employees who said they would be willing to accept a reduction in salary in exchange for permanently working from home, raises a series of important questions for organizations.”

For some, the issue of legality and ethics come to mind as companies continue to unroll incentive plans to coax employees towards vaccination. Although small in its approach, Wayne State is unconcerned in the matter.

“I think that the ethics comes in when you start getting into incentives that a reasonable person would not take because it’s large. That, to me, is coercive. Ten dollars for lunch is minimal,” says President Wilson.

Despite a dip in Michigan’s vaccination numbers, employers and institutions are striving to create a safe space for all. COVID vaccines continue to be administered across the city. The state currently stands at 30 percent for residents who are completely vaccinated. 

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