With several COVID-19 vaccines rolling out across the world, people are lining up to get their appointments. Moderna and Pfizer are leading the charge, but other companies like Johnson & Johnson may soon supply the world with their own vaccines.
Among the hectic rollouts, businesses are finding themselves in complex situations. Can they require that employees get the vaccine?
On top of that, employees want to know that their job will accommodate them and guide them through the process. Essential businesses, especially, are under the microscope when it comes to these vaccines. Luckily, employers can find solutions for almost any situation.
Can Employers Require the Vaccine?
The novel coronavirus spreads quickly. With news emerging of an even more contagious strain, people want to receive effective vaccines to stop the spread. However, some people will oppose getting the injections for various reasons — due to religious practices, disabilities, or personal convictions.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) explains the ways in which employers must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. So long as employers comply with these acts, the answer is clear.
Employers can require that employees get the vaccine, regardless of most objections. The overly vocal anti-vaccination movement in the United States would not be sufficient grounds for an employee to refuse the vaccine if the workplace requires it.
While not all employers will make it mandatory, others will strongly encourage it for several reasons.
First, vaccines are now the best way to slow and stop the spread of the pandemic. Second, employers may be liable if employees or customers catch the virus — the vaccine is a sure way to prevent legal trouble.
Exceptions and Accommodations
Although employers can technically require the COVID vaccines, they’ll find a few exceptions. Disabilities and religious notions are both recognized causes for refusing to get the vaccinations. In both of these cases, employers will need to take an alternate path.
Firing an employee due to these exemptions is typically not going to be a beneficial thing to do. On top of potential liability for the virus spreading, employers may find themselves in even more legal trouble with firings. Instead, accommodations are the most helpful.
Employers can first evaluate the risk factors of employees not getting a vaccine. What position do they hold? Who do they come in contact with? How much harm could arise if they do get COVID-19? Then, employers should accommodate employees.
Depending on the risk level, these solutions may include wearing a mask and isolating from everyone else while at work, working from home, or providing the employee with a leave of absence. This compromise ensures everyone remains safe while respecting the employee’s needs and wishes.
The road ahead for vaccinations is sure to be long. Currently, only a select group of people are eligible to receive the vaccines — those in high-risk groups and healthcare workers, namely. These restrictions vary by state and region, but eventually, vaccines will be widely available to the public. Eligibility categories are the first place to start.
Employers should develop a plan to vaccinate their employees based on eligibility and needs. For instance, an employee with underlying conditions can get the vaccine sooner than someone without any. Demand for appointments is currently high, and it will likely be higher once eligibility opens up. A smoother employee vaccination rate is better.
If employees are hesitant, managers and supervisors can focus on educating them and showing them the effectiveness of the vaccines. The more people know, the more comfortable they may be with receiving the injections.
The process must be smooth, too. Employers can aid employees in setting up appointments and ensuring the vaccines should come at no cost to them. If there is an administration or admission fee at the vaccine sites, it may be in the company’s best interest to cover those costs.
Finally, employers can offer incentives like paid time off when employees go to their appointments. Since they may need to go twice depending on the vaccine’s developer, it’s ideal if they can receive compensation for their time.
Safe and Effective Employment
With these solutions, employers’ first step can be encouraging employees to get the vaccination. In more complicated instances, a requirement may be necessary. Regardless, the safest work environment will be one where employees get the vaccine or receive the proper accommodations to continue working without posing a risk of spreading the virus.