It is clear that a great number of individuals would benefit from the immunity to COVID-19, as it would enable them to send their children back to school, have a respite from household duties, reunite with family and friends, visit restaurants and events, and take holidays. Vaccines against COVID-19 are essential to the revival of activities that have been suspended for more than a year.
While there are some who opt against vaccinations for a range of reasons, such as potential side effects, doubts about their effectiveness, contraindicated health conditions, or a lack of trust in vaccine producers and those marketing them, employers may face difficult decisions when attempting to reconcile these concerns with those of health professionals and advocates of universal vaccination. It is therefore important for employers to consider how to approach this delicate balance.
It is ultimately dependent on the nuances of your business and your operational processes to decide the appropriate response. Nevertheless, it is clear that an immunization policy for COVID-19 should be implemented for your business. The following areas provide information that may be useful in constructing the policy.
Issues of Risk and Safety
Employers may require vaccinations as a condition of continued employment, depending on the specific nature of the business. If, for example, employees are regularly in close contact with one another or customers, there is a strong case for introducing a vaccination requirement in order to reduce the risk of exposure to unvaccinated persons. This is especially true for businesses in the healthcare, travel and retail sectors.
It is important to be prepared for any potential opposition should a requirement be enforced. Employees and consumers may choose to leave the organization due to this change, and it may be necessary to terminate those who do not comply with the vaccination policy. It is possible that those associated with the organization may have contrasting reactions depending on their position.
Given the potential difficulty of implementing a mandatory vaccination policy, it is important to be mindful of the consequences of failing to do so. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, not following through on such a policy may result in claims that the employer has not provided a safe and healthy workplace, which is a requirement under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
We strongly recommend that employers provide exemptions for those unable to be vaccinated due to impairments and those with strongly held religious convictions which prevent them from being vaccinated, even if strict vaccination policies are in place. In cases where an employee requests an exemption on religious or health grounds, employers may need to obtain evidence from a recognized medical or religious professional to support their claim.
It is important to ensure that your company policies adhere to the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and other relevant laws. It is not necessary to make allowances for anyone who has religious or philosophical objections to immunizations. For further guidance, it is advised to seek advice from an HR professional. The video below provides further information on these exceptions.
Favorable vs. Obligatory Requirements
As an alternative to mandating vaccinations for your staff, you may choose to take the following steps:
- It is advisable to offer workers paid time off to receive their vaccinations and to recover should they experience any negative side effects. It may be beneficial to stagger vaccinations for staff members in order to reduce the amount of people having to take time off work at the same time due to any vaccine-related reactions.
- Pay for the full price of the vaccine.
- If your staff size is sufficient, it may be beneficial to consider arranging a mobile vaccination unit to carry out vaccinations on the premises.
- Invite medical professionals to brief your personnel on the vaccine’s merits and provide enough opportunity for questions.
- If you wish to encourage those who have not yet had their vaccinations to do so, providing those who have with a pin or sticker indicating that they have had the necessary shots may help.
- Provide benefits for people who choose to get vaccinated, but avoid giving inducements that may be seen as coercion.
- Offer to assist in removing any obstacles to immunisation.
- Lifting masking and related regulations should be done cautiously.
- Assign a date by which you hope a certain proportion of your staff has been immunised. When they succeed, reward them.
It may be beneficial to adopt a combined approach to vaccinations for employees. For example, new hires could be required to be vaccinated, while existing employees could be encouraged to do so with incentives. Alternatively, vaccinations could be made mandatory for any employees who interact with the general public.
The CDC advises that it is prudent to wait until the rate of vaccinations has stabilized before expecting positive outcomes. To help reassure employees and increase confidence in the COVID-19 vaccine, it is recommended to seek guidance from authoritative organizations and figures in the local community.
Advantages Beyond Health Care
By requiring or encouraging workers to be vaccinated, companies may do more than just slow the spread of the virus.
- Enhanced efficiency
- Lower Absence Rates
- Elevated Spirits
- The ability to adapt to changing circumstances
- Attractiveness to prospective new workers
- Customer loyalty and aid
Put together a COVID-19 Vaccination Policy that Meets the Needs of Your Business.
It is recommended to create a written COVID-19 immunization policy and distribute copies to all staff. To ensure employee understanding and acceptance, a signed document may be required.
A vaccination policy is not enough in itself; to ensure it is effective, an implementation strategy must be put in place. To ensure a successful policy rollout, a team should be formed of representatives from various departments (such as Human Resources and Operations) and levels of staff. This team should be responsible for ensuring the policy is disseminated and that records of completed paperwork are kept up-to-date. Additionally, they should be responsible for ensuring immunization records are securely transported and archived.
Herd immunity, which is achieved when a significant proportion of the population has been vaccinated, is the most effective way of bringing an epidemic to an end. As an employer, you can contribute to making this a reality.