Not all companies will want to do so, but, according to Insperity, companies can require COVID-19 vaccinations for employees. Here are some tips.
Many businesses are currently deciding whether to mandate vaccinations amid COVID-19 variants that are making the return to pre-pandemic life more complex.
This complexity has forced employers to decide how to handle COVID-19 vaccinations for employees. It’s a hot-button issue complicated by an array of factors.
COVID-19 Vaccinations for Employees: 4 Paths
In terms of your company’s best course of action, there are four paths worth considering.
In many situations, employers can require employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine prior to returning to a workplace.
In general, employers are not required to provide business justification and may not be required to demonstrate a relationship between an employee’s job and the need to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
Whether your business can require COVID-19 vaccinations for employees and whether it should are separate issues.
The following approaches reflect a wide spectrum of options that may or may not be suitable for your business or workplace.
1. Mandating vaccines
If you decide to require COVID-19 vaccinations for employees, you’ll need to implement a formal policy. It’s reasonable to assume that your company will never achieve 100% compliance with your vaccination mandate.
You may expect one or more employees to claim the following exceptions:
- Medical conditions that require accommodations
- Religious beliefs
- Personal concerns or objections
Each of these excuses for not receiving the vaccine comes with a different set of circumstances and conversations you’ll need to have with the employee raising the concern. The first two are more straightforward in terms of how to deal with them and respect those decisions while the last one is more complex and may lead to confrontation.
Consider consulting with a professional employer organization (PEO) or legal resources to minimize risks and potential liability.
2. Incentivizing vaccines
If you decide to influence or encourage – but not require – employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine, then you may want to provide information and training on vaccine benefits and safety. You may also consider creating an incentive plan and sharing the plan with your workforce.
- Incentives could be anything from gift cards to additional paid time off (PTO).
- Think about what would be most attractive to your employees
- Choose an incentive that aligns with your workplace culture
- Make incentives consistent across the board
In January 2021, the EEOC proposed a new rule for the level of incentives that employers may lawfully offer to employees to encourage participation in wellness programs that require disclosure of medical information. Certainly, vaccines fall within the category of wellness plans.
- Currently, employers can offer incentives of up to 30% of the total cost of health insurance
- Participation in any wellness program must be voluntary
- The new proposed rule states that, because participation must be voluntary, employers may offer no more than a minimum incentive to encourage participation
Again, consult HR and legal resources when considering incentives – whether they’re designed to encourage vaccinations for employees or simply boost staff morale.
3. Give them a choice: vaccine or constant testing
If you want to ensure the safest workplace possible but feel uncomfortable requiring vaccines for all employees, then there’s an option that could solve your problem.
You can give your employees two choices: Get the vaccine or be subjected to daily or weekly COVID-19 testing to ensure they aren’t bringing the virus into your workplace.
This may cause some frustration among those who don’t want to get vaccinated but, at the end of the day, your defense is that you’re trying to protect workers and their families and make everyone more comfortable.
4. Take a hands-off approach
In this approach, your company takes no official stance on the COVID-19 vaccine. There’s no requirement or attempt to influence vaccinations for employees. Staff members are left to decide for themselves – as they already do with other vaccines for infectious diseases.
Although the hands-off approach is the simplest, it’s not necessarily right for every business or workplace. For instance, your employees could perceive this approach as being unresponsive amidst a serious crisis.
Again, sound HR and legal guidance can help assess the suitability of this or any of the other three approaches to employee vaccinations.
Fernanda Anzek joined Insperity in 2013 as manager of HR services and was promoted to director of HR operations in 2016. She has more than 15 years of business leadership experience with businesses of all sizes. In that time, she’s become adept in customer service, succession planning, recruiting, employee relations, mediation, training and development, and performance management. Anzek holds a BA in psychology with a business minor from Texas A&M University.
PLUS: Useful Tools for COVID-19 Vaccines and the Workplace
For the most up-to-date information, please visit the following government websites:
- Workplace vaccination program: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- COVID-19 vaccination distribution process: U.S. Health and Human Services
- What you should know about COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act and other EEO laws: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
- EEOC proposed wellness rules
The situation will continue to evolve over time, making ongoing, reliable HR and legal guidance more critical than ever.