Employers in certain fields (such as medical offices and long-term care) may be thinking about creating mandatory COVID vaccination employee policies. If they do, MP’s HR services team suggests including in their COVID vaccination policy a section for requesting exemptions, complete with designated and trained managers to handle the process. As part of prepping for these requests, managers should be ready for the three reasons below.
Top 3 Reasons Why Employees Might Refuse Your COVID Vaccination policy
- Religious exceptions: Workers who request a religious exemption are protected under the religious accommodation provision of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. HR consulting experts advise employers to ask that workers who request a religious exemption be ready to articulate how taking the COVID vaccine would violate their “sincerely held religious beliefs, practices, or observances.” Employers will need to provide a reasonable accommodation to employees who ask for it– unless doing so would pose an “undue hardship” to the operation of the business.
- Disability: Workers with a disability that’s covered by the ADA may request an exemption from vaccination if their disability prevents them from taking the vaccine. As above, the employer must provide a reasonable accommodation if it doesn’t cause them “undue hardship.” The best HR strategies for handling these requests involve sitting down with the employee privately and engaging the interactive process. Some accommodations could include allowing the worker to be in an isolated area, to work remotely, to work off-hours, or to give them extra PPE (personal protective equipment). The important goals for employers are to handle the request so that the company remains ADA compliant and to reach an accommodation that makes the company and the worker at least relatively satisfied.
- Medical Reasons: Workers may refuse vaccination for three main medical reasons: allergies, pregnancy, and age. Allergies, especially to vaccinations or the particular components of the COVID vaccines available, are some of the most obvious reasons. Women who are pregnant, might become pregnant, or are lactating may avoid vaccination per medical advice. Lastly, the vaccine is only approved for teenagers 16 and up, with less data about its effects on 16 and 17-year-olds. (Teenagers who are 16 and 17 will need written permission from a guardian to get the vaccine.) This means employers with workers who are 16, 17, or younger, may find that they won’t be getting vaccinated. As with all medical matters, employers must treat these situations with the utmost confidentiality. They should not share a worker’s health information with other employees, nor should they ask for more information about an employee’s health than is needed to discuss the COVID vaccination policy.
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