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Employer Strategies for COVID-19 Vaccination – Penalties, Mandates, and Incentives

Vaccination Strategy: Penalties, Mandates, and Incentives

3 minute read

Many employers would agree that getting employees vaccinated is a top priority for them. They wish to keep employees healthy and maintain uninterrupted operations. And when it comes to getting workers vaccinated, employers have a few options to choose from.


Mandating Vaccine

Requiring the COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment is a controversial subject. It can be seen as alienating workers or losing prospective employees. But some companies who have already implemented it see it as the only way to return to workplace operations at a pre-COVID level. According to a recent survey from Willis Towers Watson, 52% of employers said they will be implementing some form of vaccine mandate for at least some of their employees.

A mandatory vaccination policy must meet the Americans with Disabilities Act and other federal and state laws. Working with legal counsel is recommended.

For those employers not comfortable with mandating vaccines, there are alternative methods to encourage employees to get vaccinated including incentives and penalties.


Incentivize Vaccination

Some employers are offering incentives to their employees if they receive the COVID-19 vaccination. This may include things like paid time off, gift cards, raffle prizes, funds to pay for transportation to a vaccination site, etc. The use of incentives indicates how far an organization is willing to go to get employees vaccinated while still falling short of a mandate. Some states are also offering incentives or have a lottery to incentivize their citizens.

For those employers interested in offering incentives, keep an eye out for emerging government guidance.


Penalize Unvaccinated Workers

When it comes to encouraging vaccination, incentives are not the only route available. Some employers are issuing penalties to those employees who refuse to get vaccinated. Penalties may include things like weekly COVID-19 testing or paying a monthly surcharge for health benefits.

A penalty would likely be implemented through a wellness program which is subject to unique rules under HIPAA, the Affordable Care Act, and more. Also, the federal government has not issued specific guidance on surcharges yet.


Encourage Vaccination

Employers can also encourage vaccination without offering direct incentives. These may include:

  • Using multichannel communications (posters, videos, articles, etc.) to educate employees about the importance of vaccines
  • Covering costs of vaccination for employees, including travel expenses and time away from work
  • Arming managers with resources in case employees come to them with questions
  • Appealing directly to employees using plain language and real-life stories about how COVID-19 vaccines can help communities
  • Soliciting and answering employee questions regarding COVID-19 vaccines, their efficacy, and their importance

Health experts agree that getting workers vaccinated is a worthwhile effort. And employers have many options when it comes to mandating or encouraging the vaccine in their workplace. Download the bulletin for more details.

This blog is intended to be a compilation of information and resources pulled from federal, state, and local agencies. This is not intended to be legal advice. For up to the minute information and guidance on COVID-19, please follow the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and your local health organizations.

Download the 2021 IRS Contribution Limits Info Sheet

National Insurance Services is not a law firm and no opinion, suggestion, or recommendation of the firm or its employees shall constitute legal advice. Readers are advised to consult with their own attorney for a determination of their legal rights, responsibilities and liabilities, including the interpretation of any statute or regulation, or its application to the readers’ business activities.

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Scott Fritz

Scott Fritz

Scott Fritz always has a willingness to help others, which has made him an ideal candidate for working in the public sector benefits arena throughout his career. He’s a team player and enjoys strategizing, problem solving, and finding effective cost-saving solutions for his clients. As an Employee Benefit Consultant with National Insurance Services, Scott is responsible for the overall assessment and management of an employer’s benefit plans. He is a licensed insurance agent and works with schools, cities, counties, and community mental health organizations in Michigan and North Carolina.