Bank of America, JPMorgan Make It More Expensive to Stay Unvaxxed
Bank of America on Friday notified employees, including those at its brokerage Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, that if they submit proof of their vaccination against Covid 19 by year-end to the company, they will preserve 100% of an annual $500 wellness credit per person.
The credit will be applied to employees’ 2022 health insurance premiums, according to a memo viewed by AdvisorHub.
In the message, the bank told employees that 100,000 of them, or roughly 59% of the more than 170,000 on the roster had already submitted proof of vaccination status. The wellness credit policies were “part of our ongoing focus on helping teammates and their loved ones prioritize their health and safety,” the memo said.
Vaccinations, however, remain voluntary at BofA, and unvaccinated employees may still get $250 of the wellness credit if they, as required in prior years, complete a health screening and questionnaire, according to the memo, which was confirmed by a spokesman.
The employees and their covered family members and domestic partners are also each eligible for the credits, according to the same sources.
“What I would really stress here is that this is a voluntary exercise. It is a voluntary exercise with a credit toward your medical premiums. It is not a medical surcharge,” the BofA spokesperson said. “We’re not penalizing anyone. It’s up to you to take the credit or not to take the credit.”
A previous version of the policy that was dated October 5 and appeared on BofA’s website page for employee health benefits as recently as Thursday, had required employees to be vaccinated to receive the entire $500 credit and made no mention of the $250 option. The original version had drawn complaints from some Merrill brokers, according to three sources at the firm.
It was not immediately clear whether the firm had adjusted the policy based on feedback or if the earlier version had been a draft published by mistake. A BofA spokesperson said Friday’s memo, which included the $250 credit for the unvaccinated, reflected the bank’s final policy.
The threat of a $250 credit loss is the bank’s stick to spur vaccinations—since unvaccinated employees and their unvaccinated spouses stand to lose together at least $500 worth of credits, one Merrill broker said.
For Merrill branch office personnel, however, that stick is paired with a carrot. The firm this week offered $200 payments to vaccinated employees, who have been regularly coming into the office.
BofA is not alone among the big banks to use a stick approach to spurring employee vaccinations.
“This means employees will pay more in 2022 if they are enrolled in the U.S. medical plan and choose not to get vaccinated or disclose their status,” the spokesperson added about the development, which Bloomberg first reported.
Wells Fargo is “reviewing the new requirements” set by the Biden administration and “determining how they apply,” a spokesperson said in response to an inquiry about its plans to modify the bank’s roughly 260,000 employees’ insurance costs to spur vaccines.
In September, President Joe Biden asked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to draft regulations requiring companies with more than 100 employees to mandate vaccinations or weekly testing. The agency, however, has not yet released specifics.
In the meanwhile, Wells’ brokerage, Wells Fargo Advisors, is not offering financial incentives for its employees to get vaccinated but all of them are eligible for up to four additional hours of paid time off for each dose, according to the spokesperson.
BofA, JPMorgan and Wells, as well as other banks and financial service companies, have been pushing employees to self-disclose their vaccine status for several months.
At Merrill, more than 80% of 25,000 employees, including brokers, have already volunteered their vaccination status, according to the spokesman. Roughly the same percent are also coming into the office regularly, he said.
A UBS spokesperson declined to comment on whether it would be offering incentives to office staff similar to the Merrill bonus, or increasing health insurance costs for employees who fail to get vaccines.
Morgan Stanley has similarly said it will require proof of vaccine for staff coming into the office.