vaccine policies

Employer Guides: Vaccine Policies in the Workplace

Lately the topic of vaccines in the workplace, specifically what employers can do, has been a popular point of discussion, and now with the new executive order in place regarding COVID-19 vaccinations, employers are wondering how they can implement a vaccine policy in their workplace. There are many factors that come into play when implementing a vaccine policy for your business. Here are some steps and important points to consider before implementing your policy.

Considerations before implementing a vaccination policy

There are many items to consider before implementing a vaccine policy. For example, what are the implications for the business, for employees, and customers? When it comes to employees, what steps are you willing to take to either enforce vaccination, continued social distancing or masking, or leave these items to the discretion of each employee? These decisions should be discussed with your human resources representative or team, collaborate with any internal leadership or stakeholders, and, ensure you are approaching the subject appropriately and taking all options into consideration.

In order to implement a mandatory vaccination policy, the vaccine must first be deemed safe and widely available. Additional components to consider when implementing a policy include:

  • Covering vaccine costs: If the employee’s health insurance does not cover the cost of the vaccine entirely, employers should reimburse or cover the additional funds to avoid a financial burden on the employee.
  • Educating employees: Employees should have access to documentation and resources that discuss the safety and importance of vaccinations, including the COVID-19 vaccine, so each individual has the information needed to decide how to move forward.
  • Incentivizing employees: You can offer incentives to employees who choose to get vaccinated, or even offer paid time off for employees to get the vaccine and recover from any possible side effects.
  • Accommodating employee exemptions: The vaccination plan should include the option to opt out of receiving the vaccine for medical conditions and/or religious beliefs.
  • Utilizing human resources: HR professionals should be the team that handles the communication and distribution on the vaccination policy because they’re typically well-versed in employee-related communications surrounding sensitive topics.

Employee exemptions

The two main objections to requiring vaccination among your employees are medical and religious exemptions.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has an established set of guidelines around mandatory vaccination policies. In their guidelines, the EEOC says that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits employers from compelling certain employees from getting vaccinated—which is employees claiming medical exemptions or religious exemptions. In an ADA-protection situation, alternative accommodations would need to be implemented for these employees if a vaccination policy is put in place. These accommodations could include reducing these employee’s interactions with other staff and/or customers or requiring consistent testing in regards to COVID-19.

Outside of these two accommodations, there may also be state-specific laws surrounding vaccination policies. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) remains current on these state laws which can be reviewed here.

If you’re looking to implement a vaccination policy for your workforce AccessPoint is here to assist! Our human resource management team will help you develop and implement a compliant vaccine policy and will assist with establishing best practices around the policy. Our HR team is here to support you and your business with communicating sensitive topics with your employees and will provide you with all the tools, knowledge, and resources you need to make sure your policy is rolled out successfully.

Originally published Oct. 28, 2021.

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