USA: Only 6 per cent of employers plan to mandate the COVID-19 vaccination for their employees once it is readily available, while around 40 per cent are undecided, according to the results of a recent survey.
Littler, a leading employment and labor law practice, surveyed more than 1,800 in-house lawyers, human resources professionals and C-suite executives from organisations of all sizes across the United States.
It found that less than 1 per cent of respondents currently mandate vaccination for all employees, and only 6 per cent say they plan to once vaccines are readily available and/or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration grants full approval.
Nearly half (48 per cent) have already decided against requiring immunisations in their workplaces. While it is feasible that vaccine mandates will become more common in the coming months as 43 per cent said they were still considering the possibility of such a policy (43 per cent), employers cited a plethora of worries about requiring vaccinations.
Top concerns around a mandate are fundamentally linked to employee relations issues: 79 per cent cited resistance from employees who are not in a protected category but refuse or oppose vaccination generally, while 67 per cent are concerned about a mandate’s impact on employee morale and company culture.
Legal and administrative concerns added to the hesitancy: 64 per cent are worried about legal liability should an employee experience an adverse reaction, and 47 per cent about administrative difficulties with implementing mandates.
“Given the wide range of legal and practical considerations employers must balance in establishing COVID-19 vaccination policies, it’s not surprising that most are currently planning to encourage, rather than mandate, immunisation,” said Barry Hartstein, leader of Littler’s COVID-19 Vaccination Working Group.
“It’s also a telling sign of the unprecedented environment we’re operating in that employers’ top two concerns with requiring vaccination are not legal or liability issues, but rather focus on the personal perspective of employees grappling with an ongoing global crisis and the potential impact on company culture.”
Despite the hesitancy around mandating vaccinations, the survey suggests employers are focused on encouraging employees to get the vaccine – only 6 per cent plan not to.
Nearly 90 per cent of respondents said they would provide information to employees (such as the benefits of vaccination and how to get vaccinated) and 37 per cent said they would offer vaccine administration at their own facility to increase convenience.
Devjani Mishra, a leader of Littler’s COVID-19 Task Force and Return-to-Work Team, said it was tempting to see vaccines as a cure-all for the extreme disruption wrought by COVID-19, but that there was more for employers to do.
“The reality is they (vaccines) are just one arrow in the quiver for employers, who must continue existing safety protocols, including symptom screenings, travel restrictions, face masks and distancing.”
“Especially in the transition period – when some workers are vaccinated, and others are not – organisations must remain hypervigilant in enforcing these policies as a matter of workplace safety, while being mindful of employee morale.”
Respondents identified a wide-range of COVID-19-related precautions they plan to keep in place even after vaccines are readily available, including encouraging or requiring wearing face masks (81 per cent), modifying physical workplaces to maintain distance between workers (66 per cent), limiting or restricting employee contact in common areas (62 per cent), increasing frequency and depth of cleaning (56 percent), and conducting employee temperature or symptom screenings (50 per cent).
Providing access to COVID-19 testing is another way to keep employees safe in the workplace: 36 per cent of respondents are either currently providing testing, planning to test or considering it.
Access Littler’s full report here: COVID-19 Vaccine Employer Survey Report
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