UPDATED 12/20/2021, after the Sixth Circuit lifted the stay of OSHA COVID-19 ETS.
On Friday, December 17, 2021, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit lifted the Fifth Circuit's stay that had prevented the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS).
With President Biden’s sweeping vaccination & weekly testing mandate, as well as OSHA's Emergency Temporary Standard (issued November 4th, halted on November 12th and then resumed on December 17th), U.S. organizations with more than 100 employees may soon be required to enforce COVID-19 vaccinations or regulate weekly testing among employees. Though the potential legislation already impacts over 80 million U.S. workers, businesses that aren’t required by the mandate to enforce vaccination may still be looking for ways to encourage vaccinations for the health & safety of their workforces.
We’ve reached out to businesses near and far for ideas on how to incentivize or encourage vaccination in the workplace should you decide to.
10 Ways U.S. Businesses are Encouraging & Incentivizing COVID-19 Vaccines
1. Give them the day off for vaccinations & recovery
Hesitant employees might be concerned about the amount of time needed to receive the COVID-19 vaccination, or the amount of time needed to recover from potential side effects. To help ease some of these anxieties, HR pros and employers can give employees the day off to receive the vaccine, and even the day after to recuperate.
Alina Clark, Co-Founder of CocoDoc, says, “We’ve been giving employees days off to get the COVID-19 vaccine, and time-off after the vaccination to recover from the vaccine side-effects, whether they appear or not.”
Similarly, Sanket Shah, Founder & CEO at InVideo, adds, “...once they are vaccinated, we give them the day off to take rest the next day and [offer] free food delivery from the company.”
2. Offer up extra PTO for vaccinated employees
Another great way to incentivize the COVID-19 vaccine within your organization is to provide additional paid time off (PTO) for vaccinated employees. This is separate from PTO for receiving the vaccination and recovering from the vaccination, and can be treated as standard paid leave or vacation time at the employee’s convenience.
Richard Lubicky, Founder of RealPeopleSearch, reports, “We offered two additional paid leaves for our fully vaccinated employees… We wanted to send a message to encourage employees to get fully vaccinated as soon as possible.”
John Ross, CEO of Test Prep Insight, cited a similar strategy within his organization: “As a little bonus, I gave employees the day they got their second dose of the vaccine plus the two following days off paid, regardless of whether they actually had a reaction. I allowed them to use this time just like PTO and do whatever they wanted with their days off.”
This option proved to be a popular route for many businesses we reached out to. “Any fully vaccinated employee automatically received two extra days of paid time off. Another home run,” states Thomas Hawkins, CEO at Electrician Apprentice HQ.
3. Provide a safe space for dialogue and education
For some employees, hesitancy to receive the COVID-19 vaccination stems from uncertainty around the safety and side effects of the vaccine. One of the best encouragements HR departments and leadership can provide is up-to-date resources and information on the vaccine.
Daniel Carter, Debt Advisor at IVA Advice, states, “People often only need a safe space to talk about their alternatives and thoughts while they are in a state of uncertainty. Ascertain that your staff has access to the most up-to-date information from reliable sources. Employees should be able to ask questions and respond to them. Share resources and dispel any misunderstandings that may have arisen.”
Hosting COVID-19 refreshers and information sessions can also help clear up any misinformation or uncertainties. “The main rationale behind this method was to actually find the root cause of why people were hesitant to get the vaccine, and then address it in a calm and composed manner. Thus, generated the idea of a training and info session. Most of the workers came to me after this and thanked me for removing their doubts about the vaccines!” Exclaims, Damian Enderle, HR Manager at Adult Diapers 365.
Better yet, bring a doctor in to answer questions! Branka Vuleta, General Manager & Founder of LegalJobs.io, explains, “The first thing we did was bring a doctor to talk to our employees, mainly explaining how the vaccines available work, and answering some common misconceptions.”
4. Show your support as a leader
It doesn’t have to be that deep! Simply doing your part as a leader can make an impact. Whether you’re an HR professional or a C-level executive, one of the best ways to instill trust and encourage COVID-19 vaccinations is to show your support and outlook on receiving the vaccine.
Dan Skaggs, CEO of One Thing Marketing, says, “As a CEO, I am playing my part in ensuring my employees are vaccinated. Employees that have shown me proof of their vaccination are made aware that the company supports them on their journey of ensuring the world is a safe place.”
Nicholas Rosenfeld, Director at Making a Will.co.uk, agrees: “Employers recognize that by actively promoting employee vaccination, they may play a critical role in bringing the pandemic to an end.”
5. Hold an interdepartmental competition on vaccine status
It’s no secret that a healthy amount of competition among employees can motivate them and increase physiological and psychological activation. It’s no different when “competing” around vaccination status.
Enderle speaks of a creative process his organization crafted to encourage vaccinations without a hefty budget:
“We introduced an interdepartmental competition where we kept track of how many employees got their vaccinations done. This was a very fun and creative way to compel the workers to get vaccinated because they wanted to make their department win since we sent out the status daily and congratulated the one which had the highest number of vaccinated people!”
6. Send out prizes, gift cards, vouchers, or swag
Even if you aren’t comfortable offering cash incentives for vaccinations, offering up fun rewards like gift cards, vouchers, or company swag can be a relatively low risk and low cost option.
Lubicky states, “We offered some Amazon gift cards to show how much we care about the well-being of our employees.
Employees will rarely turn down a fun reward or prize. Patrick Crane, Founder and CEO of Love Sew, adds, “We are also giving gift cards and vouchers to the employees who voluntarily get vaccinated in our monthly vaccination drive.”
A little extra swag never hurts either. Adam Wood, Co-Founder at RevenueGeeks, suggest incentivizing vaccinations with items like:
Gift cards for meal delivery services
Local gift cards
Points for your wellness program
7. Host a vaccination drive or clinic at your workplace
In addition to scheduling the time for a vaccine in their busy days, your team members may also be concerned about how far they must travel to receive it. This concern can be addressed by an on-site vaccination drive for your employees -- a particularly helpful option for larger or enterprise organizations.
Alec Pow, CEO at The Pricer, advises, “While this may not be feasible for all businesses, those with larger campuses may want to consider having a vaccination event on their premises… Start by contacting your state officials to learn more about how vaccines are distributed and whether there is a way to organize an event to vaccinate a large number of people at once.”
Jordon Scrinko, Founder & Marketing Director of Precondo, also suggests, “Several businesses have tied up with pharmacies to vaccinate employees in the office.” Employers can reach out to local pharmacies to partner up for on-site vaccination clinics.
8. Offer monetary bonuses and cash rewards
Though this option might not be feasible for businesses with tight budgets, leadership can consider offering monetary incentives and straight cash rewards for scheduling/receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. A little extra spending money is always a great option if feasible.
Glen Bhimani, CEO and Founder of BPS Security, says, “When vaccines became available, we began to offer monetary bonuses to employees who provided documentation of becoming fully vaccinated.”
Hawkins cites similar successes with his approach: “We have offered our team members a $100 bonus just for getting vaccinated. It was a huge success.”
If monetary incentives aren’t off the table, consider offering a reward (big or small) to nudge employees.
9. Help employees schedule vaccination appointments
For one reason or another, it may be difficult for your team members to schedule vaccine appointments, or find suitable vaccines for themselves. The simple act of offering to help them schedule appointments can go a long way.
Christopher Morgan, CEO at Credit Help Info, says, “The employer has stepped forward and offered to find suitable vaccines for employees who are yet to get vaccinated.”
10. Create a strong communication plan
Delivery is key. Creating a strong communication plan to encourage employees to get vaccinated can make a huge difference. Tailor your message to your team members, avoid repeating false claims, and have a plan for responding to adverse events.
Michael K. Newman, CEO & Plastic Surgeon at Dr. Newman Beverly Hills, states, “Even the best-laid strategies will fail if communication is poor. Focus on empowering your workers by emphasizing the broad picture and detailing the steps you’re doing to keep them secure by adopting a deliberate and proactive approach. Determine who will be accessible to answer inquiries and via what channels, and ensure your team knows these essential connections.”
If it makes sense for your business to incentivize or encourage COVID-19 vaccinations, there are so many routes to take. Even with a limited budget, HR professionals and employers can take the lead in educating employees, showing unconditional support, and dispelling any false information. For businesses that are concerned about taking a stance on vaccination, it might help to frame these ideas as encouragement incentives and not as protocol. After all, not all businesses are required to enforce vaccinations -- so employees should still feel like they have full control over their own decisions.
With that being said, a successful incentive can help efficiently and effectively vaccinate your workforce, which will accelerate the path to the “new normal”. GoCo is dedicated to providing up-to-date HR resources and software for businesses all over. Visit our resource center for more information!