Freebies and Incentives for COVID-19 Vaccines

From donuts to paid time-off, companies are finding unique ways to incentivize vaccinations.

March 25, 2021

Coronavirus Vaccine

NEW YORK—As the COVID-19 vaccine becomes more readily available and more people are getting vaccinated, employers are looking for ways to incentivize their workforce to get the COVID-19 vaccine and help end the global pandemic.

Since March 21, Krispy Kreme has been showing its “sweet support to those who have received the COVID-19 vaccine.” When customers show their vaccine card, they receive a free glazed donut. The campaign will continue throughout the year. 

CNBC reports that employers such as Instacart, Target, Trader Joe’s, Chobani, Petco, Darden Restaurants, McDonald’s and Dollar General are also giving workers time off and extra money to get vaccinated. Kroger is giving employees $100 in store credit in addition to a one-time $100 payment for getting the vaccine, while Publix will give associates a $125 store gift card. 

The news source also reports that a marijuana dispensary in Walled Lake, Michigan, is giving anyone over the age of 21 with proof of vaccination a free pre-rolled joint through its “Pot for Shots” campaign. “If you choose to get the COVID vaccine (we always support the freedom of choice) this is our way of saying ‘thank you’ for helping to end this pandemic and getting us back to normal,” notes the company’s website.

Workplace Challenges

In the workplace, employee acceptance and hesitation regarding the COVID-19 vaccines seems to be a mixed bag. A Society for Human Resources Management study found that 60% of workers will probably or definitely get the vaccine once it becomes available to them, while approximately 28% would still choose not to get the vaccine, even if it meant losing their jobs. SHRM notes that HR professionals and organizations will have to factor in measures to account for the potentially large number of unvaccinated workers.

“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,” said SHRM Chief Knowledge Officer Alex Alonso, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP. “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.”

Meanwhile, employees may be receptive to companies that incentivize COVID-19 vaccinations. CNBC cites a Blackhawk Network survey that asked Americans whether incentives from the government or their employer would motivate them to get a COVID-19 vaccine. The survey found more than two-thirds of respondents would accept a monetary incentive ranging from as little as $10 to as much as $1,000 or more, while one third would complete the vaccination process for a $100 incentive or less. The remaining third of respondents said money would not influence their willingness to get the vaccine, and paid time-off was a distant second choice.

At this month’s NACS HR Forum, Travis W. Vance, partner at Fisher & Phillips, reviewed issues surrounding COVID-19 and the pressures it has placed on employers of essential workers. He touched on the hot button topic of vaccines, noting that employers have the right to mandate vaccines; however, mandating vaccines may result in disgruntled workers. Retailers may also have employees with religious and medical accommodation requests, making it impossible to mandate that everyone get a vaccine. “There’s no such thing as a mandatory vaccination policy. Most of our clients are going with a highly encouraged vaccination process,” said Vance.

Yesterday, NACS announced its support for the Veterans Coalition for Vaccination (VCV)—formed earlier this year with seven leading veterans organizations—to help promote a nationwide public service announcement (PSA) campaign to encourage full vaccination and help end to the COVID-19 crisis.

The “Call to Arms” campaign messaging blends iconic imagery with a humorous twist to enlist “the tatted, the toned and the sun-deprived” arms and encourage all Americans to get vaccinated because “better times are within arm’s reach.” The ads end with a simple and direct call to action: “Don’t wait. Vaccinate.” NACS members can post the assets via their social media channels with #ThisIsOurShot, a play on the popular song from Hamilton.

For more on how you can prioritize your employees to get the vaccine, read “Vaccinating Essential Employees” in the February 2021 issue of NACS Magazine.