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Vaccination Policies: What Companies Should Consider Before Putting Plans in Place

By | Samantha McLaren |

The announcement that effective COVID-19 vaccines had been developed was cause for both celebration and relief. But with vaccine rollouts well underway, companies around the world are now facing a dilemma: whether or not to mandate that current employees and new hires get the vaccine before returning to the workplace.

Some employers are already taking a stand on this matter. Last week, Delta Air Lines became the first major U.S. employer to require new hires to have the vaccine. One restaurant in New York reportedly terminated a staff member who refused to get the vaccine until more research is done into its effects on fertility, while another NYC eatery added vaccination to the list of requirements in a recent job description. But many more businesses are currently weighing up their options, while others may not have given serious thought to it yet.

Whatever stage you’re at in developing your return-to-workplace plan, now is the time to start thinking about the role vaccines will play in it — because employees will have questions. There are no easy answers, but there are some key considerations that can guide the planning process and help you do what’s best for your company, employees, and everyone else they interact with at work.

Varying local guidelines and company tolerances around liability will make a one-size-fits-all approach impossible

Lingering uncertainty and unease around legality and liability are holding many companies back from making a firm decision about mandating vaccines. In a survey of 1,800 in-house lawyers, HR professionals, and C-suite executives in the United States, employment and labor law practice Littler found that 43% of respondents say their company hasn’t ruled out vaccine mandates altogether, but 64% are concerned about legal liability in the event that an employee has an adverse reaction to a vaccine they’ve been required to get. What’s more, almost half (47%) said they would like the states or municipalities they operate in to make the decision for them about whether to make vaccines mandatory, with only 30% saying they don’t want this.

In the absence of a clear-cut mandate or ban from relevant government bodies, companies will have to explore what local guidelines and laws exist, assess their liability, and make a decision accordingly. This is complicated by the fact that legality may vary dramatically from location to location and may change as the situation evolves. 

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