COVID vaccine policy

What the arrival of the COVID vaccine means for employers

Employers should plan now for what requirements or recommendations they may have of employees for getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

While the COVID-19 vaccine is not yet widely available for distribution, employers should plan now for what requirements or recommendations they may have of employees for getting the vaccine.

Requiring a vaccine

In general, employers can require a vaccine if it is job-related and consistent with business necessity. Not all industries or jobs may fit this requirement. However, due to COVID-19’s ease of spread and unpredictability with outcomes in each individual, many jobs in which other interaction with people is required will likely fit this description. Certainly, health care, long-term care, and other industries in which there is significant contact with the public and/or immunocompromised individuals would likely qualify. Other industries that require close contact between employees in their workspaces may also fit the bill.

Employers will need to closely consider the balance between their obligation to provide a safe workplace for employees and the fact that employee health decisions are personal choices. If vaccines are required, employers need to ensure confidentiality of medical records and may need to update employment policies.

If an employer chooses to require employees to be vaccinated, there are situations in which an accommodation (exception) may be required:

  • If the employee has a sincerely held religious belief that prevents them from getting the vaccine
  • If the employee has a medical condition that prevents them from getting the vaccine
  • If their bargaining unit has certain exceptions

The EEOC has recommended that employers in most industries should encourage and not require employees to get the vaccine.

Continue proactive mitigation

Regardless of whether an employer chooses to require vaccines, continued safety protocol is still recommended as follows:

  • Limiting close contacts and group sizes
  • Wearing masks when close contacts are unavoidable
  • Promoting good hygiene practices

Learn more

For more information about COVID-related policies, contact Carrie Cox using the information below.

Carrie Cox

Senior Consultant
HR & Org. Development Services

Carrie has experience in a variety of human resource functions, including labor laws, compensation structures, employee classification, benefits administration, performance management and human resource best practices. She has served clients in a number of industries, including manufacturing, construction, banking and not-for-profits. Carrie is a member of the national and local chapters of the Society of Human Resource Professionals (SHRM) and serves on the Wichita chapter board of directors.

She is a certified practitioner for the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® and the Hay Group’s Emotional and Social Competency Inventory. Her additional certifications include Professional in Human Resources (PHR) from the Human Resource Certification Institute and SHRM-CP designated by the SHRM.

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