Good News -- You May Get Paid Time Off to Get a Coronavirus Vaccine

by Maurie Backman | Updated July 25, 2021 - First published on April 24, 2021

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Gloved medical worker rubbing alcohol on vaccine injection site on arm of patient.

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Many workers can't afford to take unpaid time to get vaccinated. Now, they may not have to.

Ever since taking office, President Joe Biden has pushed to get U.S. adults vaccinated against COVID-19 as quickly as possible. Over the past few months, vaccine demand has well exceeded supply. But health experts fear that soon, the opposite scenario will arise -- there will be more than enough supply, but too few people who want to sign up for a shot.

Part of that has to do with general apprehension about getting a new vaccination that's only been on the market for a few months. But for some people, it has to do with avoiding a hit to their wages.

Many workers aren't entitled to paid time off through their jobs, or have such limited paid time off that they feel they need to save it for true emergencies. Since two of the three available vaccines require two separate doses -- spaced three to four weeks apart -- getting that protection could, for many people, mean having to miss two shifts at work. Plus, not everyone who gets a vaccination is able to pick up and go about life. Some people experience vaccination side effects that sideline them for a day or two, which means getting inoculated could result in a substantial amount of lost pay.

But right now, a lot of people are squeezed financially -- they've lost income in the course of the pandemic or have depleted their savings to stay afloat. As such, they can't afford to take any unpaid time off from work. But thankfully, Biden is taking steps to protect workers from suffering financial losses in the course of getting vaccinated.

President Biden has announced a new tax credit to offset the cost for small businesses and nonprofits to provide paid time off for employers to get vaccinated. For businesses and nonprofit organizations with under 500 employees, the credit will cover paid leave for up to $511 per day, per employee for up to 10 work days (or 80 hours) taken between April 1 and Sept. 30, 2021.

Of course, many employers are already offering workers paid time off to get a coronavirus vaccination. In fact, Dollar General, Aldi, and Trader Joe's were among the first chains to announce that workers would be compensated for getting vaccinated. But smaller businesses don't have the same financial resources as larger chains, so without a tax credit, they may not have the means to pay workers to get a jab. Thankfully, now, that won't be a concern.

That said, if you're living paycheck to paycheck and can't afford to miss so much as an hour of work, be sure to speak to your employer before making a vaccination appointment. Not only will you want to verify that you'll be eligible for paid time off, but you may need to find out if you're required to give a certain amount of notice before scheduling your appointments. Following your employer's rules could prevent a scenario where you don't wind up eligible for compensation.

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