What Does the COVID-19 Vaccine Mean to Your Workplace?

In guidance released at the end of last year, the Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), said employers can require that employees get vaccinated as a condition of going to work. While employers can require employees to be vaccinated that doesn’t mean they will make it a requirement. Employers need to recognize that not all of their employees will want to take the vaccine for religious, medical conditions, pregnancy, or disability reasons. If vaccines are required there will need to be accommodations made for those employees that do not want to be vaccinated.

According to a national survey from Keystone Partners, in partnership with Leading Indicator Systems, 40% of American employees are reluctant to get vaccinated against COVID-19. 37% of employees report senior management has not communicated a plan concerning COVID-19 vaccinations. And 33% of employees report inconsistent communication from senior management during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most companies will probably take the road of least resistance and encourage their employees to take the vaccine when it becomes available to non-health care workers.

HR departments will need to take the pulse of their organizations as well as whether or not it is necessary for them to be vaccinated to do their jobs. Organizations will need to address both the physical and mental safety of employees. When employees return to the office, companies are responsible not only for the physical well-being but also the comfort level of employees returning to the office. As companies look to the future, they will need to ensure that their policies adhere to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA places limits on employers’ ability to make workers take medical tests or otherwise seek out medical information about them.

Employees will be looking for their employers for guidance around vaccines. Employers will be looking at their own state guidelines and who is eligible to be vaccinated and when.  As the vaccines continue to roll out, companies will need to decide how and when returning to the office will increase their productivity and profitability while ensuring the safety of their employees. There will be a transition period where companies will continue operating with a majority of their employees working remotely or a hybrid model; however, the vaccine provides hope for the majority of workers returning to the office. The office will forever look different. Social distancing and masks will be part of the work environment for the near future.

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