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How Companies Are Handling COVID-19 Vaccine Incentives for Employees


COVID-19 vaccine incentives for employees are trending as companies realize they may have a vital role in curbing the virus.

COVID-19 Vaccine Incentives

Incentivizing employee health and vaccines is nothing new. Many organizations, especially hospitals and workplaces where close contact is a necessity, incentivize things like flu shots because it makes good sense. Others boost the incentive considerably by providing flu shots on site. COVID-19 vaccine incentives for employees are following a similar path as more and more companies opt to offer recognition of some kind for getting vaccinated.

Ongoing Efforts

The liability of companies offering incentives for COVID-19 vaccines had been a point of no small debate since they began, however in late May the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission gave employers the green light to promote and incentivize vaccinations with established guidance.

This dovetails nicely with nationwide vaccination efforts. According to the Mayo Clinic, America has come over halfway toward its goal of immunizing 80% of the national population, with some individual states closing in on 70% of their local populations. With no further encumbrances to offering vaccine incentives, we’re beginning to see wider experimentation and reliable results from ongoing efforts.

How Companies are Handling COVID-19 Vaccine Incentives

Paid Time Off – A Mercer survey taken between April 15-May 16 examining how vaccinations are being incentivized showed that 53% of employers are offering paid time off for vaccinations, making it by far the preferred method, and at the end of the day the most sensible for the situation. However, only 35% offer PTO to recover from vaccine side effects, a number that could be improved.

On-Site Vaccinations – More and more companies are offering vaccinations on-site, and Mercer’s data points to this trend only growing in the coming months – 6% already offer on-site vaccinations, and 20% have immediate plans to do it. In the future, COVID-19 vaccines may be come as common as flu shots in the workplace.

Cash and Gift Cards – Cash and gift card incentives are also a viable option, with 7% of respondents in the Mercer survey using them to reward vaccinations. Budgets for these initiatives vary too much between organizations to get a consistent number of what the average spend per employee is, but anecdotal accounts suggest it’s around $200-$300.  

New Territory

With vaccinations now occurring at a sustainable pace and several considerations at play for both employees and employers, companies are charting new territory in the COVID-19 fight, and we’re seeing promising results. Full-throated federal approval for vaccine incentives has given organizations much more latitude to find what works best for their specific cultures, and we expect people to get more creative and confident as time goes on.

The CDC already has a comprehensive guide on helping businesses promote vaccinations, along with an explanation of benefits and guidelines and tips for safe and complaint incentives. We recommend taking a look for anyone considering launching COVID-19 vaccine incentive for employees.

UPDATE: This blog was originally published on January 22, 2021 and previously updated on March 30, 2021, to reflect ongoing progress in COVID-19 vaccinations.