Ask HR: How Can Managers Encourage Workers to Get the COVID-19 Vaccine?

By Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP May 28, 2021
Ask HR: How Can Managers Encourage Workers to Get the COVID-19 Vaccine?

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP

SHRM President and Chief Executive Officer Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, is answering HR questions as part of a series for USA Today.

Do you have an HR or work-related question you'd like him to answer? Submit it here.

As a manager, I can't mandate COVID-19 vaccines in my organization, but I'd like to encourage my team to get vaccinated. Are there incentives I can offer my employees? —Anonymous

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: This is a great question, and one almost everyone in the business community is asking. As I write this, nearly 40 percent of employed Americans believe the COVID-19 vaccine should be mandatory for everyone who is able to receive it, and most organizations are unsure if they will offer incentives to encourage employees to get vaccinated. 

Whether an organization mandates vaccinations is up to its leadership, but as a people manager, you could encourage your team members to get the vaccine by educating them about the benefits of being vaccinated and sharing the latest information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That said, providing specific incentives just to your team may depend on what is provided at an organizationwide level. As a first course of action, I suggest reaching out to HR to see if there are any companywide considerations for incentives for receiving the vaccine.

I'll note that HR will typically review any local laws and guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on compliance, providing incentives, tax implications and budgeting, to name a few.

If your employer has less than 500 employees, under the American Rescue Plan Act, it can choose to offer paid leave to employees to get vaccinated and receive a tax credit for providing the leave. Employees also may be able to utilize this paid leave for time spent recovering from any side effects they may experience.

From my conversations with HR leaders and other CEOs, the most popular incentives for employees, alongside paid leave, are cash or gift cards. Some employers are even paying for transportation to and from getting the vaccine.

Best of luck and be well!


I work in an onsite, customer-facing position in retail. It seems like people have become a lot meaner and more aggressive, and I'm taking direct abuse. How should my company support me so that I can keep doing my job? Haley

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: I'm sorry to hear that you are receiving what appears to be the brunt of bad customer behavior, but I am glad you recognize what's taking place is inappropriate.

My first question is this: Have you spoken to your people manager or HR about this? In an incredibly tight job market, it is in an employer's best interest to ensure employees don't leave because of a hostile work environment, whether it's caused by their colleagues or their customers.

In addition, employees have a right to a safe workplace free from danger, according to Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations, and this extends to verbal abuse.

I also encourage you to review your employee handbook or company protocol. If your organization doesn't already have one, it should consider developing a policy for customer complaints and potentially abusive situations. For example, an established process that describes how supervisors should intervene when bad conduct continues or escalates could help protect staff. 

When you speak to HR, be prepared to provide as much detail and be as transparent as possible. This could include information on what was said and the dates these interactions occurred. It might not be the most comfortable conversation, but this information will help your company determine appropriate next steps and how to proceed.

While I can't speak to the exact circumstances you're facing, I'll also share that a little training goes a long way. I suggest your employer provide ongoing customer service training that focuses on strategies to navigate aggressive behavior.

As a CEO, I know employee safety and well-being are absolutely paramount. Best of luck, and I hope your company supports you in creating a safer work environment.



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Mandating (or Not) the COVID-19 Vaccine

It's time for employers to consider whether they will require employees to get the COVID vaccine.

It's time for employers to consider whether they will require employees to get the COVID vaccine.



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