The COVID-19 vaccine is a hot topic in the news right now, both inside and outside of the office. As an employer, there are many factors to consider when deciding if and how to incorporate the vaccine at your business. Before making a decision, we encourage you to read our answers to some frequently asked questions we have received regarding the COVID-19 vaccine.
Q: What Are Some Factors To Consider Before Mandating The COVID-19 Vaccine At My Company?
The first thing to do is figure out the rationale behind mandating the COVID-19 vaccine. Your business may be situated in an industry where it makes absolute sense to require it, such as a senior living facility, for example. With elderly patients at far higher risk of serious illness or death due to COVID-19 infection, it is reasonable and responsible to require employees to be vaccinated. In an office setting, however, where such risks are not present, mandating employee vaccination may not be the best course of action. Before mandating employee vaccination, be sure you have a strong rationale for doing so. Consider the industry your business is in, and also the job responsibilities of your employees. As a business owner, can you require it? Yes. But that doesn’t mean that you should require it.
Additionally, there needs to be some thought about “Are we going to do this every year?” if it does become an annual vaccine.
Q: What Do Current Laws Say About Mandating The COVID-19 Vaccine At The Workplace?
Current laws say you can require it. Now, there are instances when you can’t, such as when an employee has a disability that prevents them from receiving it or if an employee has religious objections to taking it. In such cases, any adverse action taken against the employee would be considered unlawful discrimination. It’s also important to note that just because initial guidance says you can mandate it doesn’t mean an employee can’t come back at a later date and make a claim against your business because they were required without good reason.
A better route to go would be to encourage employees to take the vaccine versus making it mandatory. By doing so, you basically eliminate your risk as an employer, and avoid running into any Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) issues.
Q: What Kind Of Incentives Can I Offer My Employees To Take The COVID-19 Vaccine?
Some employers are giving monetary incentives or additional vacation time (paid time off) for those that receive the vaccine. If you voluntarily continued the leave programs under the Family First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), then employees are entitled to use remaining FFCRA leave to receive paid time off for vaccination as well as to recover from any adverse symptoms after vaccination. Some people experience symptoms that are mild to significant. Remember, the full amount that you pay an employee under the FFCRA leave programs is refundable via tax credits. Though we haven’t seen any mobile vaccine options yet, that option would make it easier for people to get the vaccine.
Q: Can I require my employees to wear a mask if they haven’t been vaccinated?
Whether or not to require unvaccinated employees to wear masks at the office is largely up to the discretion of the employer. While doing so might be a “feel good” measure for you and your employees, most people are out mingling in public with individuals who are both vaccinated and unvaccinated. Requiring unvaccinated employees to wear masks may cause more discussion in the office place that could become disruptive. It is important to keep in mind the nature of your business and recommend mask wearing for the unvaccinated, but not require it. This approach is consistent with mask wearing in the general public.
For additional questions regarding the COVID-19 vaccine at your business, please reach out to your designated Achilles Group contact, or call us at 281-469-1800.