Getting back to in-person work arrangements means navigating a number of hurdles and the pressing question: Can employers require Covid19 vaccines in the workplace for their employees? We’ll check at the legal implications.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) data, about 60 percent of organizations explicitly say they will not require employees to be vaccinated while 35 percent remain unsure. Of those employers who are unsure, 74 percent say they will still encourage vaccinations among employees.
The issue has become complicated due to employee concerns and reluctance to get vaccinated.
A Gallup survey found out that 35 percent of Americans plan to decline the vaccine.
Currently, the COVID-19 vaccine has become a polarizing topic for many employers and employees alike.
As a general rule, employers may require employees to get vaccinated, but employees may also legally object for several reasons such as religious objections, medical conditions, or in some states, for philosophical reasons.
As the way it stands now there are no federal , provincial or state laws requiring citizens to get vaccinated for Covid-19, it’s the employer’s responsibility to nudge employees who are vaccine-hesitant.
Many companies now aren’t sure how far they can go when it comes to creating policies that cover vaccinations.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is there to help employers understand their rights and responsibilities. They have issued new guidance stating the employers’ federal rights amidst the pandemic. They also suggest for employers to create a policy that mandates vaccinations but with exceptions.
Company policies must allow for religious and medical exceptions. So far, nine states are currently debating laws on mandatory vaccinations.
Employers should also offer reasonable accommodations, which means that before firing an employee for not getting the shot, the employer should also ensure non-violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act or any state laws that require offering reasonable accommodations for medical or religious reasons.
It’s wise for employers to take a wait-and-see strategy. Feldman explains that there will be workplaces like hospitals where employees become unable to do their essential functions without getting the vaccine, and will therefore need to look for other jobs.
As the situation is rapidly changing, Feldman added that it is wise for employers to wait and see before creating policies that will need to change if there are changes in the supply of vaccines, or state laws.
For now, regardless of the vaccination mandates, all COVID-prevention measures should be in place and be mandated even for those who have been vaccinated. These measures include social distancing, frequent hand washing and wearing masks.