Should Employers Be Encouraging Employees to Get Vaccinated through Incentives?

This is probably one of the most controversial questions facing employers right now. Obviously a safe and well workforce is essential for any business to thrive, but should employers have the right to mandate vaccination against Covid-19, or any other disease?

Employers have been offering flu-jabs for several years now, giving employees the chance to avoid the dreaded winter virus and to help keep peak absenteeism as flat as possible. In the wake of nearly a year of this current sweeping pandemic, the news of a vaccine has been an enormous relief. But not everyone will want to have it.

What Can Employers Do?

So, how will our workforces get back to work in a world where, to have a jab, is a choice?  What can employers do to reward and incentivise immunisation? Robert Litan, non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, proposed that it would be desirable to vaccinate 80 per cent of the United States population, or 275 million individuals.  He even proposed a payment amount of $1,000 per individual, which, in his view, would incentivize otherwise vaccine-hesitant individuals to receive the required shots of a given COVID-19 vaccine.

Financial incentivisation of something like a vaccine is a complex thing, and unfortunately human behaviour isn’t always as rational as we’d like. Research conducted by the New York Times found some interesting responses to similar situations:

“(W)e found that people naturally assume that payments signal risk. In a series of experiments, we described clinical trials that offered different payment amounts for participating in a study that involved an unfamiliar testing procedure. We found that people believed that a study’s riskiness was greater when the payment was higher, even though the descriptions of the study procedures were otherwise identical. Paying people to be vaccinated might, similarly, lead them to infer that it is riskier than they would otherwise assume.”

Some private frontline companies like grocery stores and pharmacies in the US think financial incentives are the way forward and are already implementing them. Where financial incentives do make sense to people like this, Blackhawk Network found that “one quarter of respondents would prefer their incentive on a prepaid or gift card. A significant number of Americans are unbanked or underbanked and as the U.S. economy increasingly relies on digital transactions post-COVID, payment cards can help connect those who otherwise struggle to access the digital economy.” It was also clear in the results that money does talk, and it can have a positive impact on vaccination uptake in families.

Ways Companies Can ( non financially) Incentivise Vaccination:

  • Leaders can set an example by publicly supporting vaccinations and when they are eligible by getting vaccinated themselves
  • Employers can create engagement programmes to inform their people and customers about the goals, safety, and benefits of vaccination
  • Organisations can create their own positive messaging around the benefits of vaccination and position it as a wellbeing benefit
  • They can also offer up free childcare options for those with a young family who require time off to be vaccinated and recover
  • Health incentives through employee recognition and rewards programs promote good health habits and wellness
  • Annual flu vaccinations can incorporate Covid-19 provision too, and therefore normalising it
  • Where vaccination certificates are required for a traveller to enter a country, this may impact on an employee’s ability to do business in certain areas and may lead them to determine that they would need to have the vaccine. Encouraging a vaccine to promote health and wellbeing will enable employees to travel from one place to another in their work environment which is another great incentive


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