Dollar General, a US chain of variety retail stores, which employs 157,000 workers, is to reward its staff who get a coronavirus vaccine with four hours of pay.
The move to provide an incentive for a COVID-19 inoculation might be a lightbulb moment for other retail giants when the vaccines become available for the general population.
In the US, major brands Walmart and CVS have key roles in the distribution of vaccines, but Dollar General is the first to announce a plan for its workforce.
“We do not have an onsite pharmacy and currently do not have systems in place for employees to receive a vaccine at their work site,” Dollar General said in a press release.
“We do not want our employees to have to choose between receiving a vaccine or coming to work, so we are working to remove barriers (eg, travel time, mileage, childcare needs, etc) by providing frontline hourly team members with a one time payment equivalent of four hours of regular pay after receiving a completed COVID19 vaccination and salaried team members with additional store labour hours to accommodate their time away from the store.”
The company, based in Goodlettsville, Tennessee, which has more than 17,000 stores, is also working with its distribution and transportation teams to make a similar offer. It has remained opened throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
“We understand the decision to receive the COVID-19 vaccination is a personal choice, and although we are encouraging employees to take it, we are not requiring them to do so,” Dollar General added.
Companies across the US are lobbying state and federal governments to secure vaccine priority for their workforces. In December, the National Retail Federation sent a letter to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices stating that the nation’s 32 million retail workers – who are frontline, essential workers – should be given early access.
“The coronavirus, and the ensuing shutdown of businesses, has wrought havoc upon retailers of every size, in every community,” the retail trade group wrote in the letter.
“The process of approving vaccines for use to combat COVID19, and appropriate ordering of its distribution, is a critical first step in getting our economy and community life back on track.”
Neil Saunders, Managing Director of Global Data Retail in New York, said that the nature of retail work inevitably leaves employees vulnerable to the virus, even if they follow the recommended public health protocols.
“Even with preventative measures such as masks, retail workers are at risk of exposure because they regularly come into contact with a large number of people,” Saunders said in an email to The Washington Post.
“From a retailer’s perspective, they want staff to be safe but they also don’t want to be responsible for an contagion among colleagues or customers. As such retailers will be keen for their staff to get vaccinated.”
The CDC advises that the vaccines are given first to healthcare personnel and longterm care facility residents, followed by frontline essential workers and people aged 75 and over and then people aged 65 to 74, people aged 16 to 64 with underlying medical conditions and other essential workers. More than 11.1 million first dose vaccinations have been administered.