In the wake of President Biden’s recent vaccine mandate announcement, employers across the US are wondering how to maintain HR compliance and keep their workplace safe as they create their return to work plan. While schools, healthcare offices, employers with over 100 employees, employers that are federal contractors, and some other employers will soon have to require either vaccination or weekly COVID testing from their workers, smaller organizations face a confusing choice. Requiring COVID vaccination among their employee policies may increase an employer’s legal exposure and damage its ability to remain Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant. Developing a mandatory COVID vaccination policy could invite more potential lawsuits. Additionally, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has deemed an adverse response to the vaccine a reportable workplace injury (if the employer requires vaccination). MP’s HR services experts suggest that one of the best HR solutions for pandemic workplace challenges is encouraging COVID vaccination. In part two of this two-part series, MP will share three strategies for encouraging COVID vaccination that still meet HR and compliance standards. Read part one here.
3 Strategies for Encouraging Vaccination that Maintain HR Compliance
1. Reassure employees their privacy will be intact.
Employers should operate with the knowledge that vaccination status and choice are private medical information. Employers should never:
- Tell customers their whole team is vaccinated
- Ask employees to wear “I’m vaccinated” stickers
- Share vaccination status with other employees
- Ask employees directly if they’ve been vaccinated, especially in front of other employees, customers, managers, etc.
Employers should keep any information about COVID vaccination in private employee files that only HR team members are able to access. They will improve morale and trust by reassuring employees that their vaccination status, questions, etc., will remain private.
2. Try offering incentives for vaccination.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Council (EEOC) stated that employers may offer their staff incentives for COVID vaccination. The HR compliance pitfall employers must be aware of is discrimination and ADA compliance. (To reduce risk of discrimination complaints and lawsuits, employers should consider consulting with an HR service provider or employment attorney before implementing an incentive program.) Employers must provide a way for employees who cannot get the vaccine (for religious or health reasons) to earn the incentive. Alternatives could include:
- Watching a short video about COVID safety measures
- Take training on COVID safety measures
- Completing a quiz on COVID safety measures (with a passing grade)
3. Respect boundaries.
While encouraging COVID vaccination is a serious life or death matter, employers must compartmentalize the conversation. A best practice is to roll out a communication, share information, and perhaps periodically re-share that communication or information. Employers should encourage employees to come to them with questions or concerns about vaccination, especially how the company will support it, reimburse time off for it, etc. Employers should conduct talks in private, since they’re about sensitive medical issues. It will be critical for morale and HR compliance that employers don’t initiate discussions about COVID vaccination in the workplace outside these circumstances. Employers should refrain from constantly asking about vaccination status or plans, pressuring employees to consider getting vaccinated, or anything else that may create a hostile work environment for everyone. This could also lead to legal risk. Employers should be training managers on when and how to discuss COVID vaccination with staff.
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