WASHINGTON — Aldi announced plans this week to pay its front line employees two hours of pay for each dose of the COVID-19 vaccine they receive, up to four hours total.
The grocery store chain said it wanted to protect the health, safety and well-being of its employees, customers and communities. Aldi said that it plans to implement on-site vaccination clinics at its warehouse and office locations to "ensure its employees have easy access to the vaccine."
Aldi said it would cover the cost associated with vaccine administration for all Aldi hourly employees. It added that it will give scheduling flexibility for salaried employees.
“Since the onset of the pandemic, our entire ALDI team has worked to keep stores safe and stocked, and serve communities without interruption,” said Aldi U.S. CEO Jason Hart in a statement. “Providing accommodations so employees can receive this critical vaccine is one more way we can support them and eliminate the need to choose between earning their wages and protecting their well-being.”
The chain is joining a slew of other companies like Dollar General, InstaCart and Trader Joe's to incentivize its employees to get vaccinated.
Aldi currently has more than 2,000 stores across the U.S. in 37 states. It claims to be on track to be the third-largest grocery retailer by store count by the end of 2022.
A vaccine advisory panel at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control voted late last month on recommendations for vaccine distribution. The panel said grocery workers — which would include Instacart and Dollar General’s employees — should be in the second group to receive shots after health care workers and nursing home residents.
It is up to each state to decide how and when to adopt the CDC’s recommendations. Some states have already opened eligibility to the second group, which also includes firefighters, police, teachers, corrections workers, postal employees and people 75 and older. There are around 50 million people in that group.
Companies can mandate that workers get COVID-19 vaccines as a requirement for employment, although they must make accommodations for medical or religious reasons, according to guidance from the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
The United States has more than 24 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to statistics from Johns Hopkins University.
As of Friday, the U.S. had more than 411,000 deaths from the virus. Worldwide, there are more than 97 million confirmed cases with more than 2 million deaths.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.