- Trader Joe’s said on Thursday that it will provide two hours’ pay per dose of COVID-19 vaccine received to its workers and that it will alter shift schedules to make inoculation easier for them, according to media reports.
- Instacart will offer its frontline workers, including shift leads, in-store shoppers and full-service shoppers, a $25 stipend when they take time away to receive the COVID-19 vaccine beginning Feb. 1, the company announced Thursday.
- As many firms debate whether or not to require workers to get inoculated against COVID-19, grocery companies are beginning to provide encouragement as well as incentives that make it easier for workers to receive the vaccine.
Instacart and Trader Joe’s, along with Dollar General on Wednesday, are some of the first companies in the food retailing industry to announce COVID-19 vaccine stipends, and will likely not be the last as more people in the United States become eligible to receive their first doses in the coming weeks.
Although the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said in December that employers can, with some exceptions, require employees to get vaccinated, experts say implementing a mandate like this could be tricky. Grocery firms are so far focused primarily on removing barriers to inoculation and encouraging their workers to get vaccinated when they can.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended last month that, as “frontline essential workers," grocery store associates should be included in the second round of vaccinations after healthcare workers and individuals in nursing homes. It's up to the states to decide how and when to distribute vaccinations, with some states having already opened up eligibility for grocery workers.
The federal government’s decision this week to expand eligibility and speed the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines to as many Americans as possible could mean that grocery workers are able to get inoculated sooner than expected — adding urgency to retailers' efforts to set vaccine policies for their workforce.
Around 600 employees at Kroger, whose pharmacy divisions have been administering vaccine doses since late December, have been inoculated against COVID-19, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported earlier this week. Although the grocery chain is encouraging its workers to get the vaccine, it said so far it has not made vaccination mandatory.
Instacart workers in the U.S. and Canada will be eligible to receive the $25 stipend, which is aimed at ensuring that “Instacart shoppers don’t have to choose between earning income as an essential service provider or getting vaccinated," according to founder and CEO Apoorva Mehta. The company, which counts more than 500,000 contract shoppers, also said it will redistribute personal protective equipment to its frontline workforce. After facing initial criticism over its safety procedures, Instacart has rolled out numerous safety features and distributed more than 620,000 free safety kits to workers.
Trader Joe’s, which employs more than 50,000, also faced criticism around its safety practices last year and battled workers' attempts to unionize. The grocery chain said in November that 1,250 employees had tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began, for an infection rate of around 2.4%.