“No Jab, No Job?” Employer Vaccination Guidelines

COVID-19 vaccination policies are a top concern for employers and employees alike 

Should employers require workers to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, as a condition of continued employment? Here’s what the polls say… 

Employers are strong on vaccine encouragement, but split on requiring mandated vaccinations for employment. A recent Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey shows a differing opinion among employers.  While 81% of employers strongly encourage their employees to get vaccinated, 55% were uncertain about requiring vaccinations.  

Employees are largely on board with required vaccinations. Another recent SHRM workforce survey revealed that 72% of employees would accept a vaccination requirement from their employers and “60 percent of U.S. workers said they will probably or definitely get the vaccine once it becomes available to them. However, 28 percent of respondents said they are willing to lose their jobs if their employer requires the COVID-19 vaccine.” *  

What about that 28% of employees that would rather quit? While vaccinations decrease the risk of spreading the virus in the workplace, reduce absenteeism, decrease employee health care costs, and increase overall productivity, some employees may react poorly to mandatory vaccination policies. Employers that want to require employees to get a COVID-19 vaccination should be prepared to respond to employee concerns and make reasonable accommodations under federal and state law if any employee refuses to do so. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued guidance stating that some employees may be exempt from employer vaccination mandates under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), and other workplace laws. Employers that require vaccinations may face discrimination claims if they deny accommodation requests based on medical or religious objections.  

However, under the ADA rule, an employer can have a workplace policy that includes the requirement stating that an individual, “shall not pose a direct threat to the health or safety of individuals in the workplace.” Suppose an employee who cannot be vaccinated poses a direct threat to the workplace, in that case, the employer must consider whether a reasonable accommodation can be made, such as allowing the employee to work remotely or take a leave of absence.  In that situation, the possibility of a mutual decision to discontinue employment may arise. 

Most employers are choosing to inform, educate, and encourage their employees to consider getting vaccinated. Many employers are developing in-house vaccination education campaigns—communicating with their workers why they believe vaccinations are important and why this approach is necessary. 

Rather than implementing mandates, some employers may wish to focus on steps they can take to encourage and incentivize employees to get vaccinated, such as  

  • Helping employees to obtain the vaccine, as in, providing links to vaccination wait-lists for their area. 
  • Covering any costs that might be associated with getting the vaccine. 
  • Providing monetary, time off or other incentives to employees who get vaccinated. 
  • Providing paid time off for employees to get the vaccine and recover from any potential side effects. 

To require a vaccination, or to not—that will be the coming question. As access to vaccines becomes widely available, companies that do plan to require employees to get vaccinated need to have a written policy in place. Regardless of whether a company sets a policy for mandatory or voluntary vaccinations, employers should let employees know what other COVID-19 safety precautions are being taken to ensure the staff’s safety. 

If you need assistance in developing a vaccination policy, creating campaigns to encourage your employees to get vaccinated, or just need help in communicating your HR requirement about vaccinations, give Cardinal a call at (800) 342-4742 or email us at hr@cardinal-services.com to speak to one of our HR Specialists! We’re here to help.  

* https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/legal-and-compliance/employment-law/pages/employees-refuse-to-get-a-covid-19-vaccine.aspx