Currently, it’s not advisable for most employers to require their staff to get the COVID vaccine. MP’s HR services experts have warned that this territory will be risky and have some HR compliance challenges. However, the recent stimulus bill has created a new option for employers to encourage vaccination: participating in the extended FFCRA leave program. As a bonus, employers who (properly) offer this program to their team will be eligible for a tax credit. MP’s HR consulting team share how it works:
Employers must opt into FFCRA leave: When employers opt into this program now, they will need to offer it uniformly. It will allow employees to take time for other reasons (including caring for a sick individual or if they themselves are sick with COVID or COVID-like symptoms). For more information, you can read MP’s additional articles about FFCRA leave here. Per the new stimulus bill, employers that elect to participate must offer this option to their whole team. It should not be offered only to exempt or high-level employees, or on a case-by-case basis. Anything other than a uniformly offered option will be considered discriminatory and could create serious consequences for an employer, including complaints, lawsuits, damage to their reputation, and an inability to properly qualify to receive the FFCRA tax credit.
Workers can elect to take FFCRA leave for vaccination or sick time after: The new stimulus bill expands the use of FFCRA leave so that employees will now be able to use it for their vaccination appointments or if they feel too sick to work for a day or two after getting their vaccination. This means they’ll get paid at 100% of their usual pay for any time off. Depending on the way certain vaccination clinics are run, this could be a huge help to employees. At some sites, getting vaccination can take hours, not including travel time. If staff doesn’t have to dip into their own vacation, sick, or personal days to get the vaccine, this may motivate them heavily to go get it. It will also help that they don’t have to take time from their weekends or nights. Of course, employees will also likely be motivated by essentially getting paid their wages as they get vaccinated. This is an ideal scenario—especially for employers that were considering paying their employees out of their own pockets to get vaccinated. Now, they can bypass any of the possible risk of discrimination lawsuits that incentivization could create or any of the ADA compliance challenges that requiring vaccination might bring.
When employees take FFCRA leave to get vaccinated, the employer gets a tax credit: This could be financially helpful for workplaces. Now, ultimately, employers won’t have to pay their team out of their own pocket for the time they take for vaccination or its complications. They will get this money back in tax credits. If employees were on the fence about vaccination, they may be more likely to do it now. As an additional benefit, employers will be earning a tax credit when their workers go get vaccinated. Of course, there are also other benefits. Workplaces will be safer, clients and customers may be more trusting about patronizing businesses if they know they’re encouraging vaccination, and employees may be more likely or able to return to the workplace if everyone is getting vaccinated.
What to do next: Employers that want to use this tactic should publicize it with their team. (If they have an HR provider like MP, they can work with them to create relevant employee policies and communications.). Workplaces should designate a member of their staff who will handle requests for FFCRA leave. They should share this information with everyone and create an official policy that notes that the workplace encourages (but does not require) people to get vaccinated. Another way to reinforce this process would be to publicize it when upper management get their vaccinations. This will help build trust and provide examples to staff that getting the vaccine is safe.
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