Should You Require Employees to Take the COVID-19 Vaccine?
Tom Rupp, Employee Benefits Specialist
The answer can only come from you, the employer. Think about your specific employees, customers, patients and culture. What are the potential risks? What strategy fits your unique organization? How much could this cost? Contrary to popular belief, the many pandemic relief programs will not be free for taxpayers and employers. The wrong move could be even more costly.
Many employers are concerned about liability regardless of what strategy they adopt. It is the quintessential “Catch 22”. Option 1, require employees to get vaccinated. We do not know if there are long term side effects to the vaccine. If they surface in the future, it could lead to worker’s compensation exposure. Option 2, not requiring vaccines of employees. This could endanger customers, patients and coworkers creating other potential liabilities. There have been no lawsuits around employers requiring vaccines to date, but we all know they are coming soon.
The Emergency Use Authorization is significant. The COVID-19 vaccines were developed in 9 months. Vaccine development and phased testing can take 10 years or more in most cases. 27% of Americans are hesitant to get the vaccines, according to (KFF). Even more first responders across the country are declining the vaccine for now. Not all skeptics fear a Cutter Incident, you can read more about that here. Over one year into the pandemic, many are not embracing another mandate even if they agree with the premise.
If employees refuse to get vaccinated, you have choices. Requiring them to wear additional personal protection equipment is reasonable. Distancing unvaccinated employees from coworkers and others may be appropriate. Working from home is not possible for many positions. Terminating employees could be a legal option, but not what you are looking for.
Dollar General Corp. goes for the carrot approach. For the 157,000 that they employ, 4 hours pay is the reward for taking the COVID-19 vaccine. Is that approach enough to get 100% participation? Probably not. Does it send the message that the organization is encouraging the vaccine and places a value on it? Absolutely, yes. This approach is clear, achievable, measurable and worth considering.
Develop your strategy and put it in motion. Be informed and ready to answer when your policy is questioned. Talk to your attorney, your physician and your team. Review our Brown & Brown “Screen, Test, Trace & Immunize” resource. Ask other employers about their COVID-19 policies. Once you have decided, put it in writing, post it and share it. The pandemic will not last forever. As my Dad says every 60 miles of a road trip “We’re almost there.”
*Please be advised that any and all information, comments, analysis, and/or recommendations set forth above relative to the possible impact of COVID-19 on potential insurance coverage or other policy implications are intended solely for informational purposes and should not be relied upon as legal advice. As an insurance broker, we have no authority to make coverage decisions as that ability rests solely with the issuing carrier. Therefore, all claims should be submitted to the carrier for evaluation. The positions expressed herein are opinions only and are not to be construed as any form of guarantee or warranty. Finally, given the extremely dynamic and rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation, the comments above do not take into account any applicable pending or future legislation introduced with the intent to override, alter or amend current policy language.