Presidential Push for Vaccination & Paid Time Off

a person holding a notebook with the words paid time off written on it

In a quest to reach 200 million vaccinations within his first 100 days in office, on Wednesday, April 21, 2021, President Biden called again on employers to offer paid time off to employees receiving or recovering from COVID-19 vaccinations stating that, “No working American should lose a singe dollar from their paycheck because they chose to fulfill their patriotic duty of getting vaccinated.” Biden reminded employers that this rally cry comes with a redeemable tax credit to recover the cost of offering this benefit for employers with fewer than 500 employees.  

As listed in the White House Fact Sheet, the announcement includes information on how small and medium-sized employers can fully offset the cost of the offered paid leave for vaccination and recovery. The tax credit will cover up to 80 hours (10 workdays) up to $511 per day ($5,110 aggregate) for leave taken for a COVID-19 qualified reason between April 1st and September 30, 2021. The tax credit will apply to nearly half of all private sector employers and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has published a Fact Sheet on how employers will claim the paid sick leave credit on their quarterly tax filings. 

It is important to note that this is not an additional 80 hours of paid leave. This paid time off falls under the qualifying reasons that were expanded under the voluntary extension of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The paid leave bucket was reset effective April 1, 2021 extending the tax credit to September 30, 2021 with the signing of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The U.S. Department of Treasury has also provided this Snapshot informational guide on the available leave time.

The President is also calling on all employers to take additional steps to use “their unique resources to provide information” about how and why individuals should get vaccinated. In line with the Administration’s “We Can Do This” national campaign, Biden is also requesting that employers make commitments to provide information and incentives to all Americans receiving the vaccine. The suggested incentives include “discounts for vaccinated individuals, product giveaways or brand rewards, messaging in-store, point-of-purchase promotions, direct outreach to customers, or Public Service Announcements (PSAs) about the importance of vaccination.” The White House Fact Sheet includes a link directing employers that wish to commit to their employees and communities, to complete a form providing the details of their support. 

What has not yet been addressed by the White House or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is whether certain incentives are subject to the EEOC rules. Several groups including the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have requested that the EEOC address this concern and provide guidance on how offering incentivized vaccination would interplay and possibly infringe upon laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) and/or provisions of Title VII under the Civil Rights Act. According to EEOC legal counsel, guidance is pending. Stay tuned.

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