About a third of companies still require their workers to receive COVID-19 vaccinations, according to a recent survey. Vaccination policies and exemption procedures must be in place when employers hire new and seasonal workers.
Employer immunization requirements fell to 32 percent this year from 34 percent in 2021, Mercer found in a survey of more than 700 employers. Fewer employers required one booster (16 percent) or two (11 percent).
If there is a spike in COVID-19 infections this winter, 52 percent of companies surveyed said they will provide additional paid time off for employees recovering from COVID-19.
Employers have restarted influenza vaccination clinics and are encouraging employees to self-supply the bivalent COVID-19 booster, said Dr. Jeff Levin-Scherz, executive director and director of public health at WTW in Boston. “This booster shot requires more refrigeration than is normally available at on-site vaccination campaigns and requires 15-minute observation, making it less suitable for on-site vaccination campaigns,” he explained.
Many employers are now treating COVID-19 shots in a similar way to flu shots, with health promotion information and resources for getting the shot, said Mary Kay O’Neill, a senior health consultant for comprehensive health management at Mercer in the Seattle area.
Although the drop in mandatory vaccination is not large in the Mercer survey, said Robin Shea, attorney at Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete in Winston-Salem, NC, “In my experience, employers have become less aggressive when it comes to pushing for COVID immunization than in 2021 and less inclined to threaten employees with termination if they are not vaccinated or boosted.” A major exception is the healthcare industry, where immunizations are generally a requirement rather than a matter of choice, explained Shea added that practices can vary among companies in different parts of the country.
Most government mandates aimed at vaccinating employees in the private sector have lapsed, said Corbin Carter, an attorney with Mintz in New York City. The city’s private-sector staffing requirements officially ended on November 1, and various other federal requirements have been blocked.
Additionally, the tight labor market could discourage some employers from returning to mandatory vaccination policies, said David Barron, an attorney with Cozen O’Connor in Houston.
Some courts are becoming increasingly critical of vaccination requirements, warned Peter Siegel, an attorney with Greenspoon Marder in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
But most private-sector employers can still have a mandatory vaccination policy, said Amory McAndrew, an attorney with Hoguet Newman Regal & Kenney in New York City. She said a recent decision by which the city would reinstate and compensate public employees who refused to receive their COVID-19 vaccine would not affect immunization requirements for private sector workers. “The focus of the recent judgment was really on the disparity between private and public sector mandates,” she explained.
In most jurisdictions, employers can require vaccination as long as they are willing to make religious or medical arrangements where appropriate, Shea said.
Nonetheless, “It should be noted that in some states, such as Florida and Texas, it is unlawful for employers — at least those not under a federal mandate — to require workers to be vaccinated against COVID,” Shea added.
Religious and Medical Exceptions
Employers who have mandated vaccinations have been generous in granting requests for religious housing, Shea said.
“Even if the request appears to be non-religious in nature — for example, due to vaccine safety concerns — or appears to be a pre-packaged request, I usually recommend contacting the staff member for more information before making the request.” decline request,” she said. “Many people have difficulty articulating abstract religious beliefs.”
In addition, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has stated that even if an employee is not a member of a recognized sect, denomination or place of worship, this does not necessarily mean that the belief is non-religious and non-genuine.
Shea added that medical exemption requests will be granted in all cases as long as the employee provides appropriate documentation from a healthcare provider.
When employees fall ill, employers should be as generous as possible by providing time off through sick leave, paid leave where required by law, time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or non-FMLA medical or personal leave, said Shea.
“Be prepared to take reasonable precautions if the condition appears to be permanent,” she added. “Remote work is a great solution when the job allows it and when the employee is healthy enough to work but there are concerns about contagion.”
There are some jobs where placement is not an option, e.g. B. when employees must work closely with each other or with the public and risks cannot be reduced by personal protective equipment, particularly in certain healthcare facilities or nursing homes, said Carol Goodman, an attorney with Herrick in New York City.
In terms of mandatory masks, sanitizing and other precautions, employers should set their own standards based on what they believe is best for employees and public safety, while considering the culture of their workforce, Shea said.
She would expect significant opposition in many parts of the country if employers required employees to wear masks again.
“If the pandemic returns this winter, we could see increasing pressure on employers to close offices and reintroduce strict safety protocols,” Barron said.