Vaccine Incentives: 6 Action Steps for Employers

Vaccine incentives can encourage employees to do their part in bringing the pandemic to an endemic!

As of a few months ago, 90 million Americans were eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine but still had not gotten it. Employers play a large role in educating and encouraging employees to get vaccinated. Despite not having a mandate, vaccine incentives are still a popular ideas for employers. 

Write, Rewrite, & Communicate Policies  

All employers should consider creating policies that explain their approach and expectations for the vaccine. State if your organization is mandating or encouraging vaccinations. Secondly, specify any accommodations given such as PTO for recovery. And lastly, discuss other safety measures such as wearing masks, social distancing, and visitor rules.  

Amend policies as state and local guidelines shift. Frequently communicate with your employees about new policies or policy changes.  Keeping employees in the loop demonstrates that you are making their health & safety is a top priority!  


A lot goes into starting a vaccine incentive, so we put together a list of action steps to help: 

Action Steps For Vaccine Incentives 

1. Decide on a reward or penalty, plus the incentive size 

Reward employees who voluntarily offer proof of vaccination with cash incentives or gift cards. Alternatively, penalize employees who are not vaccinated by a certain date with surcharges on group health plans. For instance, you could impose a $50 surcharge on top of the $100 that employees already contribute bringing the total to $150. 

Yes, both forms are legal if other guidelines mentioned below are followed. Keep in mind: the EEOC says companies administering the vaccine to their employees cannot make incentives large enough to be “coercive.”  

2. Think about booster shots 

Next, determine whether the incentive will be only for initial vaccinations. Clarify if an additional incentive will be provided for booster shots.  

3. Keep health plans affordable 

If you go the penalty route, estimate the impact it will have on affordability. Health plans need to be affordable under the employer mandate. You don’t want to pay a penalty of your own!

4. Communicate the reasonable alternative standard 

For employees unable to receive the vaccine, devise a reasonable alternative. Ensure all employees are aware of the alternative (i.e. wearing masks, testing weekly). Develop a process for responding to requests for the reasonable alternative standard.  

5. Set deadlines and specifications 

Set a deadline for when employees need to submit proof of vaccination by and specify what constitutes proof. Consider whether to extend provisions when the Public Health Emergency comes to end.  

6. Follow any other guidelines 

Make sure your incentive satisfies all requirements under HIPAA, the ADA, and GINA. This is not as daunting as it may sound! 


Employers can combat the pandemic by incentivizing the COVID-19 vaccine. Doing so will not only keep employees safe, it will also help businesses and the economy return to a sense of normalcy.