Currently, most employers outside the medical or long-term care fields would be wise not to require that their employees receive a COVID vaccination. While getting COVID vaccinations are important for the efforts to fight the pandemic, workplaces need to be able to make a case that this will be a necessity for their business because unvaccinated workers will pose a direct threat to customers, clients, patients, etc. Generally, long-term care facilities and medical facilities can make this case because they work with people who are medically vulnerable every day. Another good consideration for whether an employer can require COVID vaccination in its employee policies is if it has been able to require flu vaccination in the past.
For employers who won’t be able to, or choose not to require COVID vaccination, one of the next best HR strategies is to encourage it amongst your staff. MP’s HR services team offers guidance on how to do this with the least risk and the highest efficacy.
Why You Shouldn’t Incentivize COVID Vaccination
Employers who encourage their employees to get vaccinated, rather than requiring it, might wonder if they should incentivize workers for vaccination. In fact, many companies are already talking about the incentives they’ll be giving to those staff that get vaccinated. MP’s HR consulting team advises against this strategy, though. Incentivizing workers for vaccination could create some possible risks. Firstly, incentivizing workers’ medical decisions is a bad idea. This could create some difficult precedents for the future. Unless there are threats to people’s safety, strong boundaries should exist between employers and their employees’ medical lives.
Another risk that employers want to avoid is accusations or concerns about discrimination. There are very likely to be employees who cannot or won’t be getting the vaccine because they have religious objections, allergies, are pregnant or lactating, or have a medical issue or disability that prevents them from vaccination. When they can’t get vaccinated, they also can’t get the rewards that their coworkers can. This could lead to accusations of discrimination– or even lawsuits.
The last risk is about morale. Because mask-wearing and vaccination have taken on such a political charge, employers should beware incentivizing employees for it. Ideally, workplaces should be devoid of any political ideological influence (with the obvious exceptions, like churches, synagogues, political offices, etc.). Offering employees money, food, gifts, or anything else for vaccination could read as an ideological or political influence and deeply offend workers. Especially as many businesses are struggling to make it through the pandemic and workers are feeling burnout more than ever, morale and a cohesive company culture are important. Avoid alienating workers by offering incentives for COVID vaccination.
8 Tips for Encouraging COVID Vaccination
These are eight of the ways that employers can encourage their workers to get vaccinated without the risks mentioned above.
- Clear communication: Send a clear message to workers (one that can be referred back to on an intranet or physically posted on a wall) encouraging them to get vaccinated. Open the lines of communication and encourage workers to come to upper management with any questions or concerns about vaccination (or general pandemic safety).
- Share resources: Share resources that help workers get vaccinated. Send websites that list vaccination sites or allow people to sign up for vaccination appointments. Share information about the potential health benefits and risks for workers who get vaccinated. If you offer insurance, share information that might be relevant to your insurance plan.
- Reimburse for transportation: Offer to reimburse for Ubers and Lyfts to and from the vaccination sites. Taking away the cost of transportation could be the final push your team needs to go get vaccinated.
- Paid time off for vaccination: Assure workers that you will pay for time they need to take off to get vaccinated. This way, they won’t feel pressured to dip into their sick, personal, or vacation time. This may be especially helpful with the long lines that many vaccination clinics are experiencing. Going to get a vaccination could take up half a day or more with travel and wait times.
- Offer sick time: Let workers know they will be able to take a paid sick day if they feel sick after they get the vaccination. Again, this helps alleviate the concern about using up precious sick days.
- If possible, host a third-party vaccination clinic onsite: Work with a third-party provider (like CVS) to host a clinic onsite. Offer the vaccine for free. This will make vaccination more convenient to workers and thus more appealing.
- Reassure privacy: Reassure workers that their medical information will remain private. Staff may feel uncomfortable with others knowing if or when they will be vaccinated. Like any other medical information a worker shares, this should also be treated with confidentiality.
- Publicize it when upper management gets vaccinated: To encourage employees to get vaccinated, let them know when the CEO, president, and other members of upper management or union leaders get vaccinated. You may even want to share a picture or video clip. (Caveat: if a member of management doesn’t feel comfortable with this, respect their privacy. As mentioned above, medical information needs to be treated with confidentiality as a rule.)
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