GOODLETTSVILLE, Tenn.—Dollar General, the discount retailer, announced is offering its 157,000 employees a bonus of four hours of pay when they are vaccinated against COVID-19.
Grocery stores, airlines and transit companies want access to COVID-19 vaccines for their essential workers to protect them from rising case counts nationally and reassure customers they’re in a safe environment. Some large employers say they want as many workers as possible to be vaccinated, but they won’t require employees to get shots, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Many hourly workers face challenges that range from getting to vaccine appointments, managing child-care needs and scheduling conflicts because they work multiple jobs. Some retail workers are wary of seeking medical services because they receive a minimum wage and often lack access to health insurance coverage or paid time off.
“We felt the right thing to do was to break down these barriers to vaccination,” said Todd Vasos, CEO, Dollar General, adding that he didn’t want expenses associated with childcare and transportation to keep workers from getting the vaccine.
The company will ask workers to check a box verifying that they have received a dose to receive the four hours of pay, but they don’t need to show a vaccination card or other proof. Dollar General will provide paid time off to workers who have adverse reactions the shot. The vaccine-incentive program won’t have a material impact on the company’s finances, a spokesman said.
Deemed an essential retailer just as convenience stores, Dollar General and other retailers were able to remain open during much of 2020, logging strong sales of groceries and household items. The company told investors the pandemic led to a “significant sales benefit” and reported a $2 billion profit in the first three quarters of its fiscal year, a 71% increase from the same period a year earlier. Dollar General spent $173 million on employee bonuses as of Nov. 17, 2020, and during the pandemic began offering paid sick leave.
Other organizations also are considering a paid bonus or paid time-off the day after a vaccine appointment to encourage staff to get shots. Some employers are hesitant to begin offering incentives before there is clarity about who is eligible in each state and how the vaccine will be administered. While the federal government provides prioritization guidance, state and local health officials will make the final decisions regarding eligibility.
Public-health experts warn that even after workers are vaccinated, they must still wear masks, social-distance and follow additional safety measures. Little is known about whether those who have been vaccinated can continue to spread the virus.
NACS encourages retailers as they wait on guidance from health officials to be proactive and reach out to local hospitals and pharmacies to see if they have vaccines for essential workers. To hear more from NACS, download Episode No. 265 of Convenience Matters: “Special Episode: Vaccinating Essential Workers.”
For information on state vaccination plans, MultiState maintains a COVID-19 State and Local Policy Dashboard.
NACS has compiled resources to help the convenience retail community navigate the COVID-19 crisis. For news updates and guidance, visit our coronavirus resources page.