Majority of Retailers Won’t Require Vaccine for Workers, But Will Incentivize Those Who Do Get Immunized, According to Korn Ferry Survey


Return of Corporate Employees to the Office is Still Months Away

As the COVID-19 vaccine becomes more readily available, two-thirds (66 percent) of retailers say they will allow employees to remain working on-site, even if they choose not to be inoculated. That is according to a new Korn Ferry (NYSE: KFY) survey of more than 50 major U.S. retailers.

Despite the fact that most are not mandating vaccinations, more than half (53 percent) say they will either implement or are considering implementing incentives for those employees who do get vaccinated. Incentives include 2 hours of pay for each dose, a fixed dollar amount or additional time off to be used at a later date.

“Retailers understand that vaccinations are a critical component to getting this virus under control, but won’t go as far as mandating it for employees,” said Korn Ferry retail expert Craig Rowley. “Employee and customer health and safety remains a top priority, and actions already taken such as installing Plexiglas, additional cleaning and social distancing have helped stem the spread in retail locations.”

There is still caution regarding corporate retail employees returning to the office, with only 8 percent stating the majority of workers have already returned. Eighty-four percent say it will be at least June before the majority of corporate workers return to the office, with 19 percent saying the return won’t happen until sometime after September.

When corporate workers do return to the office, it won’t be to pre-pandemic levels. Twenty-five percent of retailers say they will allow more than half of their corporate employees to continue working remotely, with a third (33 percent) allowing remote workers to work from home all the time.

“We’ve already seen some retailers scale back corporate headquarters and given the new world order, this is a trend that will most likely continue,” said Rowley.

About the survey

The Korn Ferry survey of more than 50 major U.S. retailers, with annual revenues between $50 million to more than $20 billion, took place in February 2021.

Survey responses:

Will your company require employees to take the COVID-19 vaccine to continue working on site?

Yes, required for all employees                                                                   3 percent

Yes, required only in distribution centers                                                  6 percent

No, they can work onsite without taking the vaccine                              66 percent

No, but without the vaccine they must work remotely                           9 percent

Other                                                                                                             16 percent

If you will not mandate that employees that employees get the vaccine, will you provide any in incentives for employees who do get the vaccine?

No                                                                                                                   47 percent

Yes, to all employees                                                                                    19 percent

Yes, to store and distribution center employees only                              3 percent

Yes, still finalizing plan                                                                                  25 percent

Other                                                                                                               6 percent

When do you expect the majority of corporate workers to return to the office?

Have already opened                                                                                    8 percent

April/May                                                                                                        8 percent

June/July                                                                                                        42 percent

August/September                                                                                       23 percent

After September                                                                                           19 percent

What percentage of corporate retail workers do you expect to allow to work remotely longer term?

Less than 10 percent                                                                                     3 percent

11-20 percent                                                                                                  11 percent

21-30 percent                                                                                                  19 percent

31-40 percent                                                                                                  14 percent

41-50 percent                                                                                                  11 percent

More than 50 percent                                                                                    25 percent

Not planning remote work as a matter of policy                                        17 percent

For most remote employees, how much time will they be expected to work remotely?

2 days per week                                                                                             25 percent

3-4 days per week                                                                                          23 percent

100 percent remote                                                                                       33 percent      

N/A                                                                                                                  19 percent

About Korn Ferry

Korn Ferry is a global organizational consulting firm. We work with our clients to design optimal organization structures, roles, and responsibilities. We help them hire the right people and advise them on how to reward and motivate their workforce while developing professionals as they navigate and advance their careers.

Media Contact:

Tracy Kurschner


Sign up for Korn Ferry updates


Dan Gugler
+1 310 552-1834

Asia Pacific:
Malte Weyhe
+61 2 9667 2604

Michele Lally
+44 7387 092650