Common Questions About COVID-19 Vaccines And The Workplace

As the mass distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines continues across the country, curiosity surrounding mandates in the workplace has increased. Employers interested in providing a safe, decent, and productive work environment for staff are contemplating the best way to get the ball rolling. The only problem is, mandating vaccines across the board could be more trouble than it’s worth. Below is a look at some of the common questions and answers for employers to make an informed decision. 

Can Employers Require Employees to Get Vaccinations? 

The short answer is yes. The federal government has permitted employers to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for employees to return to the workplace. Be that as it may, there are some stipulations. Companies interested in making this a requirement must ensure they don’t violate the protections afforded to employees with disabilities, certain medical conditions, and religious beliefs. 

Employees with disabilities are protected by the American Disabilities Act. If they have a disability that prevents them from getting the vaccine safely and you “force” them to take it, you could face a lawsuit. The same outcome is true for employees with certain religious beliefs. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that if an employee practices a religion that prevents them from getting the vaccine, they should be exempt. 

Keep in mind that the same is true for potential or new hires. While you’re entitled to perform an employer background check and mandate vaccines, you have to be careful not to discriminate against applicants protected under the laws listed above.

Which Industries Should Consider A Vaccine Mandate? 

With the various risks involved in mandating COVID-19 vaccines for employees, you may be wondering if it’s worth making it a requirement. Businesses that employ first responders or frontline workers that are in constant direct contact with the general public should consider a mandate. Since these positions increase the risk of exposure, it’s best to do what you can to keep employees, customers, and their families safe. 

Are There Alternatives to Requiring the COVID-19 Vaccine? 

Having a large percentage of your staff vaccinated undoubtedly has its advantages. If you’re not sure you want to make this a recommendation, there are other options. You can encourage employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Many companies have offered paid time off, transportation reimbursement, and cash incentives for employees that want to take the vaccine. Giving employees paid leave eases any financial hardship they might experience. Offering to cover the cost of transportation will ensure employees can get to and from vaccination sites safely. If you prefer cash incentives, it’s essential to be careful. If the offer amount is too large, it could be viewed as coercing instead of encouraging. 

Another option is to educate employees. Sometimes people are fearful because they don’t have enough (or accurate) information. Providing print materials, links to reputable websites, or holding seminars can give employees the facts to make a more informed decision. 

What Are The Associated Costs of COVID-19 Mandates? 

If you believe a COVID-19 vaccine mandate is necessary for your staff, you may be curious about the associated costs. While most insurance companies cover vaccines, employers may have to cover the costs for uninsured employees. Employers may also have to compensate employees for any hours spent outside the office to comply with company policies. Finally, employers should consider the cost of consulting with experts, developing a policy, and educating or training their staff. If these aren’t expenses you can afford, it may be best to encourage instead of requiring the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Although coronavirus vaccines provide a sense of relief and an opportunity to return to “business as usual”, employers still have a tough decision to make. As you can see, despite permission from the federal government, there are some exemptions, accommodations, and risks that must be considered. Use the information listed above and the advice from an attorney and human resources representative to determine which scenario is ideal for your business. 



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