According to the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC), an employer can require sick workers to stay home and provide a doctor’s note before returning. They can direct testing for illnesses such as COVID-19. And although employers can also insist that employees receive vaccines, there are limitations to how much they can enforce this, and they need to accommodate people who have disabilities or religious exemptions.
Businesses can certainly encourage and make it easier for their employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, though, and Dollar General has led the way in providing incentives for employees to get their shots.
In a Jan. 13 announcement, Dollar General stated that the company would be supporting their frontline workers who wish to receive the vaccine. Since they don’t have on-site pharmacies or a system for employees to be vaccinated at work, the discount retailer has taken a different approach: paying them for their time.
“We do not want our employees to have to choose between receiving a vaccine or coming to work, so we are working to remove barriers (e.g., travel time, mileage, child care needs, etc.) by providing frontline hourly team members with a one-time payment equivalent of four (4) hours of regular pay after receiving a completed COVID-19 vaccination and salaried team members with additional store labor hours to accommodate their time away from the store,” Dollar General wrote in a statement on its website. “We’re also working with our distribution and transportation teams to make similar accommodations for those teams.”
According to a WGN report, the company has more than 157,000 employees working at 16,720 retail locations in 47 states. Although Dollar General is encouraging its workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccination, they are not requiring them to do so.
Since Dollar General announced this incentive, other large retailers — including Trader Joe’s, Aldi and Instacart — have followed suit with their own programs meant to encourage employees to receive the vaccine.
According to CNN Business, a spokesperson for Trader Joe’s stated in an email that the company will provide workers with “an additional two hours of regular pay per dose for taking the time to get vaccinated.”
Similarly, the grocery chain Aldi has announced that their hourly workers can also receive two hours of pay for each vaccine dose they receive, for a total of up to four hours of paid time off.
Meanwhile, Instacart will make available a “vaccine support stipend” of $25 for in-store employees and independent contractors who have been vaccinated. The stipend program will begin Feb. 1, and independent contractors are eligible for it once they have shopped and delivered at least five times for Instacart in the past 30 days.
Just as it was an early adopter of incentive programs for employees wishing to get vaccinated, Dollar General was also one of the first retailers to institute a “senior hour” to allow vulnerable customers to shop more safely. The company also increased employee benefits during the pandemic and donated $5.25 million to its Dollar General Employee Assistance Foundation to support workers during times of need.
The retailer states that stores will continue to take precautions to help slow the spread of COVID-19, including wearing masks, practicing good hygiene, and following proper social distancing practices.