Olive Garden parent company to offer paid time off for employees to get COVID-19 vaccine

Darden Restaurant Inc. will offer workers 2 hours of pay for each dose

Some restaurant workers will receive sick pay to prevent themselves from getting sick.

Darden Restaurants, the parent company of brands including Olive Garden, announced on Tuesday that it will incentivizing employees to get their COVID-19 vaccines by offering paid time off — up to four hours — so workers "do not have to choose between earning income and getting vaccinated," Darden CEO Gene Lee said in a letter shared with Fox News.

"While we will not require hourly team members to be vaccinated as a condition of employment, we strongly encourage you consider getting vaccinated," the letter adds.

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DRI DARDEN RESTAURANTS INC. 151.04 +0.40 +0.27%

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Darden's workers will get two hours of pay per dose (a total of four hours pay for two doses). The rate will be determined by the employee’s total earnings over the past 13 weeks (including tips). Workers that haven’t worked for the last 13 weeks will receive payment based on their primary job or minimum wage, whichever is higher.

Restaurant managers will also be given "scheduling flexibility" for their own vaccinations.

Olive Garden restaurant store front

Darden Restaurant’s CEO, Gene Lee, made the announcement in a letter that describes the vaccine as a “critical tool” in ending the pandemic. (iStock)

The letter concludes by reminding workers that even though vaccine is an important step forward, they will still need to take other steps to prevent the spread of the virus. These include abiding by mask-wearing mandates and following all CDC-recommended protocols.

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News of Darden Restaurants' decision follows announcements from companies such as Dollar General, Aldi, Trader Joe's and Instacart, all of whom announced their own incentives or paid time off to get vaccinated.