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Chobani offers workers paid time off to get coronavirus vaccines

The race is on to get the second group of recipients into the shot seat.

Chobani offers workers paid time off to get coronavirus vaccines
[Photo: Flickr user Baltimore County Government; rawpixel]
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With two FDA-approved coronavirus vaccines well into the first phase of distribution, the race is on to get the second group of recipients into the shot seat. And for many states, that will include scores of essential workers such as mail carriers, mechanics, gas station attendants, and grocery store clerks.

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As we shift into this next phase—amid a vaccination program that has lagged after missing its target goals for last year, and that recent reports suggest had no real strategy to begin with—some essential businesses are employing new policies to help expedite the process, by making it easier and more beneficial for workers to become inoculated.

Yogurt maker Chobani is the latest such company. The food manufacturer said today that it will cover up to six hours of paid time off for its employees to get vaccinated, across 2,200 workers in its plant, storage, and delivery operations.

“It’s simple, fair and the right thing to do,” Chobani president Peter McGuinness wrote in a LinkedIn post. “Our plant employees have been on the frontlines of putting food on America’s kitchen table 24/7 during this pandemic. They’re the heart of our company and we’ll do whatever we can to protect them.”

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The six hours will cover the requisite double doses for the coronavirus vaccine with three hours per shot. While Chobani noted that vaccinations are not yet widely available, it said it’s “working very closely with state and local officials to advise our team about the opportunities to receive a vaccine.”

With the move, Chobani joins several major grocers in knocking down barriers and building up incentives for employee vaccinations. Dollar General, Trader Joe’s, and Aldi have all said they would compensate workers for getting vaccinated, with all three chains offering an extra four hours of pay on top of paid time off. Online delivery company Instacart, meanwhile, said it would give its flock of in-store shoppers and contractors a $25 “vaccine support stipend” if they meet minimum delivery quotas and receive the shots.

And yesterday, Amazon sent a letter to newly elected President Biden expressing its desire to facilitate on-site vaccinations for essential workers at its warehouses and Whole Foods stores.

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Despite the incentives, no business above has said it will mandate vaccinations for workers. According to experts, that would be unfeasible under current supply constraints and could also provoke backlash.