Aldi and Trader Joe’s are among a growing number of large chains offering financial incentives to encourage their workers to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Aldi announced on Tuesday that it will cover vaccine costs and provide its hourly employees with two hours of pay for each vaccine dose they receive, for a total of four hours of pay. The retailer “is ensuring that all hourly workers who wish to receive the vaccine are able to do so without concern about losing pay or taking time away from work,” per a press release.
Trader Joe’s, Dollar General, and Instacart announced their incentives for workers last week. Trader Joe’s said it will give employees two hours of pay for each dose they receive — for a total of four hours for the complete two doses — and will allow flexible scheduling so workers have time to get vaccinated. Dollar General will also give four hours of pay to employees who get the vaccine. Instacart said it will provide both in-store shoppers and contractors with a $25 stipend if they get vaccinated, with the stipulation that they must have completed five deliveries in the last 30 days.
Back in December, Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol told CNBC that the fast-casual chain would “strongly encourage” employees to get vaccinated and would cover costs associated with receiving the vaccine, but would stop short of requiring that all workers be vaccinated.
Per the Associated Press, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission allows companies to mandate vaccines, including for the flu and for COVID-19, but they have to allow exemptions for medical or religious reasons. As a practical matter, though, it would likely be an administrative headache to track which employees have complied with the mandate and which have requested exemptions, so thus far, it seems more companies will probably encourage rather than require vaccination.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends that retail, food service, and other essential workers be vaccinated next as part of phase 1c, after phase 1a’s health care personnel and nursing home residents and phase 1b’s frontline essential workers and adults 75+ (these phases and their rollout vary state to state). To date, nearly 13.6 million people in the U.S. have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, with 2 million people having been fully vaccinated, per a CDC tracker. Federal officials initially shared a goal of vaccinating 20 million people by the end of December.