- McDonald's is paying U.S. corporate employees and workers at company-owned restaurants to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, McDonald's said in an email. Employees who get vaccinated will receive four hours of paid time.
- The chain will not require employees to get vaccinated, but encourages it and will connect workers with third-party experts to share information and answer questions about the vaccine.
- McDonald's vaccination approach mirrors the two weeks of paid sick leave the chain rolled out in March in response to the pandemic, which also applied only to employees at corporate stores. Both initiatives impact less than 5% of McDonald's domestic restaurants, according to Restaurant Business.
As one of the largest fast food chains, McDonald's strategy could inform how other major QSRs, and restaurant chains in general, plan their vaccine distribution strategy for employees. Several big brands have not released any details on how they will approach the issue. Restaurant Dive reached out to Burger King, Chick-fil-A and Wendy's about their possible vaccine plans but didn't receive responses before press time.
"Vaccination is essential in the fight against the pandemic, and we are actively encouraging McDonald’s employees to take this important step," Tiffanie Boyd, U.S. chief people officer, McDonald's USA, said in an emailed statement. "We're engaging with government officials and our partners to understand where McDonald's can further support this work."
McDonald's, however, isn't the only restaurant giant to provide incentives to its employees to get vaccinated. Darden Restaurants is offering its 133,000 hourly workers two hours of pay for each dose of the COVID-19 vaccine they receive. Pay will be informed by the employee's earnings with tips over the past three months, with a maximum rate of $20 per hour. Employees will need to show evidence of vaccination to receive this money.
Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol also said the chain will pay for costs associated with the vaccine to inoculate its labor pool, but like McDonald's and Darden, will not make vaccination mandatory. It is legal to require COVID-19 vaccination — The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said in Dec. 16 guidance that employers could do so — but many employers feel that receiving the vaccine is a personal choice they don't want to infringe on.
A more fully vaccinated workforce would help McDonald's and Chipotle, which both reported an impact to their profits due to costs associated with COVID-19 during their latest earnings calls. McDonald's, for example, added protective barriers and supplied PPE to all its restaurants. For the quarter, this included a one-time COVID-19 related expense of $45 million in its international segment, according to an SEC filing. Chipotle's Chief Financial Officer John Hartung stated the chain paid for medical claims and performance-related bonuses as coronaviruses cases surged toward the end of the year.
During its earnings call last week, McDonald's CEO Chris Kempczinksi said, "Even while we celebrate a vaccine created in record time, we know that COVID is at its worst right now in many parts of the world, that so many of the communities we serve are experiencing record-high infection rates. We all must play a role a as part of the solution."
Chipotle and Darden's vaccine initiatives will have a bigger impact on their respective labor pools than McDonald's. Neither brand franchises, and their vaccine plans will impact all hourly workers within their store network. Ninety-five percent of McDonald's U.S. restaurant, however, will not be part of the chain's vaccine plans.