COVID-19 vaccine incentive trend gains steam with Kroger

One of the nation’s largest employers is turning to an incentive to encourage its workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Kroger announced it will pay a $100 bonus to any of its employees who get vaccinated against COVID-19. The one-time payment “will be offered to all associates who receive the full manufacturer-recommended doses” of the vaccine, the company said in a statement Friday.

The announcement follows news that a handful of other employers will offer vaccine-related incentives, but it is especially significant as Kroger employs some 500,000 workers.

With a company of Kroger’s size and scope turning to incentives to encourage vaccinations, other large employers are likely to follow suit.

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“As we move into a new phase of the pandemic, we’re increasing our investment to not only recognize our associates’ contributions but also encourage them to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as it becomes available to them to optimize their well-being as well as the community’s,” says Tim Massa, Kroger’s chief people officer.

Workers who cannot receive the vaccine due to medical or religious reasons will have the option of completing an educational health and safety course to receive the payment, Kroger said. Kroger also announced an additional $50 million investment to thank and reward employees for their work during the pandemic, including a $100 store credit and 1,000 fuel points for hourly frontline grocery, supply chain, manufacturing, pharmacy and call center associates.

Related: Mayer: Don’t have a COVID-19 vaccine strategy? It’s time to make one

Other grocers have recently shared similar incentives to get their workers vaccinated. Aldi says it will cover costs associated with vaccine administration and will provide employees with two hours of pay for each dose they receive, up to four hours total, as well as scheduling flexibility for salaried employees. And 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.

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Dollar General was one of the first major employers to announce a strategy for encouraging its workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The retailer said last month that it’s offering workers an extra four hours of pay for getting the vaccine.

Recent data indicates that financial incentives may be a smart strategy for employers to encourage vaccination. A survey from Blackhawk Network, a payments provider, finds that although some 40% of workers are either unsure about getting the vaccine or do not plan to get it, certain incentives could boost vaccination rates. For as little as $100, one-third of employees would agree to get vaccinated against COVID-19, the survey of 1,105 employees finds.

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“Incentives are powerful tools for driving desired behaviors, and the key for government agencies and businesses looking to increase vaccination rates and support public health will be ensuring they are offering incentives their target audiences find most valuable and attractive,” says Jeff Haughton, senior vice president of incentives, corporate development and strategy of Blackhawk Network.

Read all of HRE’s COVID-19 vaccine coverage here.

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