Yesterday, the CDC announced that a COVID-19 booster shot would be needed to maximize vaccine-induced protection and prolong its durability. Not coincidentally, multiple news outlets, including NBC News (here), report that the U.S. will begin to provide Covid-19 booster shots to all Americans beginning the third week of September.
So, now seems as good a team as any for a refresher course on the employer’s legal obligations regarding employees taking time off from work to get a COVID-19 vaccination.
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 allows businesses with fewer than 500 employees and certain governmental employers to claim refundable tax credits that reimburse them for the cost of providing leave to employees to receive or recover from COVID-19 vaccinations. The tax credit for paid sick leave wages is equal to the sick leave wages paid for COVID-19 related reasons for up to two weeks (80 hours), limited to $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate, at 100 percent of the employee’s regular rate of pay.
But, here’s the thing.
The ARP tax credits are available to eligible employers that pay for leave from April 1, 2021, through September 30, 2021. So, we’re talking about a week or two of available tax credits when the boosters get released to the public in mid-to-late September.
Now, some states and localities offer or mandate paid leave specifically for vaccinations. Others have general “paid sick leave,” which may also fit the bill. I found this helpful list, which is updated through August 18, 2021. So, depending on where you conduct business, your mileage may vary.
Of course, your business is free to incentivize employees to get boosters. The EEOC has confirmed that federal EEO laws do not prevent or limit employers from offering incentives to employees to voluntarily provide documentation or other confirmation of vaccination obtained from a third party (not the employer) in the community, such as a pharmacy, personal health care provider, or public clinic. Employers administering vaccines to their employees may offer incentives for employees to be vaccinated, as long as the incentives are not coercive.
But, can a business mandate booster shots for all employees? Yo, slow your roll—Check-in with me next month. Let’s focus now on employees that have zero COVID-19 vaccinations.