According to one of the nation’s top health benefits consultancies, employers are starting to apply a specific cost of $20 to $50 per month to their unvaccinated staff. In addition, some employers offer bonus gift cards, days off from work, cash, and other monetary incentives to persuade their employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

According to Mercer, a big employee benefits consultant that works with thousands of businesses across the world, the carrot strategy is going to be accompanied by a stick that may cost employees up to $50 per month.

“Employers have tried to encourage employees to get vaccinated by offering incentives such as paid time off and cash, but with the Delta variant driving up infections and hospitalizations across the country—at the same time that vaccination rates have stalled—we have received inquiries from at least 20 employers in the last few weeks who are considering adding health coverage to their plans.

Mercer isn’t revealing the identities of the firms working on the fees, but the sum being discussed with these employers is comparable to the $20 to $50 per month costs that corporations now levy on smokers.

There is a financial motive for encouraging vaccination and keeping employees and their families healthy, in addition to a public health reason. COVID-19 can cause significant sickness and an expensive hospital stay, which costs both the employee and the company’s insurance, resulting in premium hikes.

The unvaccinated may face increased expenditures and health insurance rates as a result of COVID-19, according to an editorial published in this week’s New York Times. “Getting hospitalized with COVID-19 in the United States typically generates huge bills,” wrote Dr. Elisabeth Rosenthal and Glenn Kramon of Stanford University, citing examples such as “a $104,000 bill for a 14-day hospitalization in Miami for an uninsured person.” While premium surcharges are still being considered, some employers are already using financial incentives. According to Mercer statistics from a recent study of more than 300 companies, “only 10% provide a financial incentive, while 19% offer extra paid time off as a reward,” the firm stated in a statement. “Some employers are now offering additional time off so employees can assist with their children’s vaccinations,” according to benefits experts. As employees return to the workplace after 18 months of working remotely, the drive by employers to have their staff vaccinated is only growing.

In a piece on Mercer’s website last week, Symons wrote, “A few big names, including Google and Facebook, announced plans to require all employees to get vaccinated for COVID-19 before returning to the office. … And, while many employers are willing to take additional measures to boost vaccine levels, most employers are still hesitant to impose mandates because of the potential for employee relations issues. With the Delta variety driving increasing infections and hospitalizations across the country at the same time that vaccination rates have plateaued, businesses are considering health care surcharges for the unvaccinated as an alternative to a mandate.”