Now that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines have received FDA emergency use authorization, many employers are eager to get their workforce vaccinated. Some employers may want to make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for all workers. While this approach may be effective, it may also come with potential downsides.
Some Workers Will Object to the Vaccine
Not everyone is excited about the vaccine. Although some people see it as the best tool we have in the fight against the pandemic and can’t wait to be vaccinated, others do not wish to be vaccinated for various reasons.
- Some workers may say that they cannot be vaccinated for reasons related to a disability and legally protected by the ADA.
- Other workers may say that they cannot be vaccinated for reasons related to their religion and legally protected by Title VII.
- Other workers may simply not want to be vaccinated. For example, they may distrust vaccinations or see them as unnatural. Although this type of objection may not be protected by law, it may still lead to conflict and morale issues. Some workers may even feel strongly enough to quit rather than be vaccinated.
Vaccines May Be Hard to Get
Right now, policies that mandate vaccines may be complicated by the simple fact that vaccines are still hard to get in many places.
The CDC has recommended phases of vaccine distribution. Under these guidelines, frontline essential workers are eligible for the vaccine in phase 1b, and other essential workers are eligible for the vaccine in phase 1c.
However, states are in charge of the actual vaccine rollout, so when individuals qualify for the vaccine will depend on the rules used by each state. Employers should contact their state health department to determine when their workers can be vaccinated and where the vaccinations can be obtained.
Consider Your Options
Mandating the vaccine is one option, but it is not the only option.
- Educate your employees on the vaccine. This is important whether or not you plan to mandate the vaccine. The CDC provides excellent resources that employers can use to educate their workers on the COVID-19 vaccine.
- Make it easy for your workers to get the vaccine. If it’s possible in your state, see if you can set up a worksite vaccination clinic. If this is not possible, help your workers determine where they can get vaccinated.
- If you decide to mandate the vaccine, review the ADA and Title VII requirements. The EEOC has added a section on ADA and Title VII issues related to the vaccine on its COVID-19 page.
- If employees cannot be vaccinated or refuse to be vaccinated, consider what alternative arrangements are possible, if any. For example, can the workers perform their tasks remotely?
As always, BNC is your risk management partner. If you have any questions about your insurance programs, please don’t hesitate to contact us.