Vaccine mandates in the workplace have been a hot topic for quite some time now, and the recent news that the Pfizer vaccine has been approved by the FDA (with Moderna expected to follow) has added a new level of perspective to the conversation. While many companies have already started requiring vaccines for their employees, it is anticipated that even more will follow suit as a result of this new development.
You don’t have to look too far to see that this is a polarizing issue – simply turn on the news or open any social media page and you’re bound to witness a flurry of debates surrounding the moral and legal dilemmas that come along with requiring (or not requiring) vaccines for employees and/or citizens. It’s strikingly similar to the conversations we’ve seen regarding wearing masks – but accompanied by even stronger opinions. While some argue that requiring vaccines in the workplace is necessary for keeping employees, their families, and the rest of the community safe, some believe that doing so is a direct violation of privacy, legal rights, and personal safety.
Because of these clear differences of opinion, it’s understandable that employers might be wary about evolving their vaccination policy from a simple request to a full-on mandate, even in light of the FDA’s approval. Although there may be concerns regarding a mandate’s effect on employee morale and turnover as well as potential legal issues, there are several points you can include that can help minimize the risk of unfortunate outcomes should you choose to take this route.
Clearly Define Reasoning
When designing your vaccine mandate, it’s important to include the organization’s logic behind it. Doing so serves to clear up any confusion as to why it’s being put in place, and can reduce anxiety employees may have over getting the shot. Clearly explain the impact it will have on employee safety and include facts about the effectiveness of the vaccine. Even going so far as to describe the extensive measures the FDA had to take in order to grant approval could help sway an employee who is on the fence.
Compensate for Time
It’s vital to explain in the mandate that employees will be paid for their time spent getting the vaccine during work hours. Not only is this required by federal law, it can also assist in incentivizing employees who may feel inconvenienced or worry that their pay will be negatively impacted by the time spent waiting to receive the vaccine. It may even be wise to take this a step further and provide a few days of paid time off – this point comes all the way from the top, with President Biden urging companies to provide PTO for employees getting the vaccine, even offering a paid leave tax credit to make it easier for organizations to administer this benefit. Everyone loves time off, and it will give employees a chance to recover after being vaccinated if they need it.
Offer Reasonable Accommodations
Even though the vaccine will be mandatory should employers choose to utilize this type of policy, there can still be exceptions for employees who meet certain criteria which should be clearly defined. These exemptions could be of a medical nature, in which an employee has a medical condition that could cause the inoculation to be dangerous for them. Employees citing religious reasons for opting out of the vaccine is also permissible. Be sure to explain what employees should do and who they should communicate with in order to make these exemptions known.
Promote Confidentiality and Third-Party Communication
A key factor to consider in order to make employees feel secure while avoiding legal problems when drafting your vaccination policy is to have strict confidentiality rules that are clearly stated. Make it known that no personal information surrounding vaccination records will be shared. Also make it clear that all relevant communications will go through Human Resources, so that employees won’t feel pressured to share personal information with their bosses or coworkers.
We are living in uncertain times, and sometimes it’s hard to determine which move is the right one. But if you choose to implement a mandatory vaccination policy for the safety of your employees, be sure to take the necessary steps to ensure it produces a positive outcome.