- President Joe Biden called on employers Wednesday to offer paid time off to employees receiving or recovering from COVID-19 vaccinations. "No working American should lose a single dollar from their paycheck because they chose to fulfill their patriotic duty of getting vaccinated," Biden said.
- Employers with fewer than 500 employees will be able to redeem a tax credit to recover the costs of offering the benefit. The tax credit will offset the cost of PTO for each employee "for up to 80 hours (i.e. 10 work days) up to $511 per day of paid sick leave offered between April 1 and September 30, 2021," according to a White House fact sheet.
- Biden also asked employers of all sizes to further vaccination efforts within their organizations and surrounding communities. The president encouraged companies to offer discounts to vaccinated individuals, host product giveaways and post in-store messaging.
This tax credit may encourage smaller employers to incentivize vaccinations by way of paid leave. But it doesn’t answer a question that employers of all sizes have been grappling with: whether certain types of incentives are subject to U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission rules.
Business groups including the Society for Human Resource Management and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce asked the agency in February to clarify how employers might incentivize vaccinations without infringing upon laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act and Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.
Last month, attorneys predicted EEOC guidance would arrive "soon." Sources said employers should offer incentives that anticipate potential claims by providing access to incentives through both vaccination and an alternative means for those who have disabilities or sincerely held religious beliefs that prevent vaccination.
Updates to the guidance are pending, legal outlet Law360 first reported. EEOC Legal Counsel Carol Miaskoff told business groups in a letter HR Policy Association shared with HR Dive that "the agency expects to update its technical assistance about COVID-19 to address these issues."
Regardless, this tax credit will benefit the 50% of restaurant operators that plan to encourage and provide incentives for their employees to get vaccinated, according to a recent survey from BlackBox Intelligence. About one-third of operators planning to offer incentives will offer one-time cash payments, while 5% will cover the cost of the vaccine and 10% will offer more time off.
Paid time off has been the most popular vaccine incentive among major restaurant chains, with McDonald's, Noodles & Company and Darden Restaurants offering it to employees. Chipotle has also said it will pay for costs associated with the vaccine. This tax credit could incentivize smaller regional chains and independent restaurants to offer similar incentives, speeding up vaccination rates in the restaurant sector.