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Opinions of Wednesday, 7 April 2021

Columnist: Selase Rich

Coronavirus vaccinations: Can employers mandate it?

The first anniversary of Covid-19 is not one that is celebrated but frowned on due to its numerous damages on both lives and businesses. Thankfully, our scientists have been busy in their labs to find solution to the perils of the marauding virus.

The maxim “to every level there is a devil “identifies with the invention of the various lifesaving vaccines. This is because getting people to take the vaccine also comes at a cost.

Companies and business leaders must adopt a strategy to handle COVID-19 vaccinations for employees in the mist of the many persuading conspiracy theories against the Covid-19 vaccinations. It’s a critical topic that’s complicated by a collection of factors with no easy answers.

I know the leadership team of my company are weighing the chances even on their beds.

There are many general arguments worth contemplating when considering your company’s best course of action. In this paper I attempt to present possible pros and cons of requiring vaccines for employees, and outline four common approaches related to the issue of mass vaccination.

Pros and Cons of requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for employees.

It is important to assess the possible outcomes that could emanate from taking the Covid-19 vaccination for employees. These will depend on an array of unique factors specific to your business and workplace. Other factors include federal, state and local laws.

Probable Pros:

Encouragement for your employees that your company is doing its best protect them and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in your facilities.
A drastic reduction in potential liabilities associated with employees contracting COVID-19 at work.

Probable Cons:

Negative impact on morale if most employees prefer to make their own healthcare decisions.

Logistical and enforcement challenges.

Greater administrative obligations, as well as the requirement to engage in accommodation dialogues with employees who cite exceptions to receiving vaccines.

Potential future legal repercussions or liabilities if an employee experienced an allergic reaction to a required vaccine.

Four approaches

In several instances, employers can require personnel to receive a COVID-19 vaccine prior to returning to a workplace. Universally, employers are not required to provide a business justification and may not be required to demonstrate a relationship between an employee’s job and the need to get a COVID-19 vaccine. The following approaches reflect a wide spectrum of options, which may or may not be suitable for your specific business or workplace.

Mandating vaccines

If you decide to require COVID-19 vaccinations for employees, you’ll need to implement a formal policy. Note that it’s reasonable to assume that your company will never achieve 100% compliance with your vaccination mandate. You may expect one or more employees to assert the following exceptions: medical conditions and religious belief among others.

Incentivizing vaccines

Granted that the zeal of all the workforce is at inertia towards vaccination, then some level of motivation is needed. Employers therefore could consider creating an incentive plan and sharing the plan with your workforce. Everybody likes gifts.

Recommending vaccines

With this method, you let employees know that your workplace recommends they get a COVID-19 vaccine. Your leaders are vaccinated to set a good example, and you provide information and training on the benefits and safety of vaccinations. Provided everyone has access to the content, some internal communications strategies could be useful in delivering the message.

Taking a hands-off approach

In this approach, your company takes no official stance on the COVID-19 vaccine. There’s no requirement or attempt to influence vaccinations for employees. Staff members are left to decide for themselves – as they already do with other vaccines for infectious diseases. Although the hands-off approach is the simplest, it’s not necessarily right for every business or workplace. For instance, your employees could perceive this approach as being unresponsive amidst a serious crisis.

If your company chooses to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for employees, you may be well within your rights as an employer to do so. But there are many important factors you should consider before deciding on this plan of action. Again, if you choose to move forward, it’s wise to develop a vaccination policy with the support of an HR professional or legal counsel.