Feb. 10, 2021

Can You Count On Your Employer to Help You Get the Covid-19 Vaccine?

As Published in the WALL STREET JOURNAL

Employers may offer transportation or other incentives, but getting actual shots to workers remains unlikely—for now

With the Covid-19 vaccine slowly rolling out, many workers are wondering whether they can count on their employer to help them get shots.

The Bottom Line

Many employers are trying to provide updates on local vaccination protocols and to combat misinformation among their employees. But with the exception of workers in hospitals, nursing homes and some food-processing plants, it is unlikely employees outside the highest-priority groups of Tier 1 can expect to receive a Covid-19 vaccine at
work or through their employer in the next few months.

A January survey of 494 employers by consulting firm Willis Towers Watson found that while almost 80% were planning or considering actions to develop policies and procedures to make it easy for workers to get the vaccine, only 14% had taken steps to do
so. About 15% reported lobbying state officials to prioritize their employees for the vaccine.

For now, supply simply cannot keep up with demand. “A lot of HR departments are very eager to find out how they can do their part to get people vaccinated,” said Jeff LevinScherz, population health leader at Willis Towers Watson. He notes that while some employers are preparing on-site vaccination plans, it likely will be months before they are feasible.

“There really isn’t enough supply at the state level to be giving it to employers or vendors to do workplace vaccination,” Dr. Levin-Scherz said. “Hopefully over the next few months that’s going to change.” 

The Details

Frustrated by the uneven national vaccine distribution, some executives have sought to pitch in.

In Washington state, companies including Starbucks will lend expertise to accelerate the rollout. In North Carolina, Honeywell International, health system Atrium Health, and Tepper Sports & Entertainment plan to collaborate with the goal of inoculating thousands more people a day than the average vaccination site in the state currently does. Uber and Moderna have said they aim to work with public-health agencies to help those eligible for doses get reminders and schedule rides to the shot.

Other companies are encouraging workers to get vaccinated. Delta Air Lines is offering monetary incentives to employees through its health and wellness-benefits programs, in addition to giving ground-crew workers and flight attendants the equivalent of a day off to get vaccinated. Dollar General is offering employees who get the Covid-19 vaccine four hours of pay. Restaurant chain &pizza is offering its roughly 800 employees free transportation to and from vaccine sites as well as four hours of paid time off.

Employers planning eventual on-site vaccinations may want to consider waiting until they have enough supply to offer the shot to their entire work force. They should also avoid pre-screening questions that may raise potential privacy concerns, said Paul O.
Lopez, managing partner and head of the labor and employment group at Tripp Scott.

“You do have to be careful to make sure that you are not overstepping your bounds and invading people’s privacy rights,” he said.

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