There’s so much debate with little guidance or legal backing about mandating COVID-19 vaccines in the workplace. Although it is permitted and ideal for essential businesses and their employees, higher-ups are reluctant to make it a requirement. There are too many gray areas and potential liabilities that prompt them to go another route. Not to mention, the vaccines are so new that most employees aren’t convinced they should hop in line for the shot.
What Should You Do?
This is a confusing time for employers. Essential workers are at the forefront of this pandemic. They’re always in contact with the general public and are most likely to be exposed. Ultimately, you want to do what you can to keep them safe. However, mandating that they take the COVID-19 vaccine doesn’t seem right either.
Of course, some employees will be at the front of the list, ready to get vaccinated, but what about those that aren’t interested? What about the employees that are afraid, have certain religious beliefs or disabilities that prevent them from getting vaccinated? Are you seriously going to say, get vaccinated or get fired? It’s a lot to think about. Although the decision is yours to make, here are some alternatives to a company-mandated COVID-19 vaccine.
Distribute COVID-19 Reading Material
If you’re going to ease the fears and concerns of essential front-line workers, you start with fact-based information. Just as you would research the best way to perform background checks for employment of new hires, use the internet to find relevant information on the COVID-19 vaccines. It’s best to pull this information from reputable government, healthcare, or news sites for accuracy. Print out information or add the link to an email blast and send it out for your workers to review in their spare time. Sometimes, reading the facts from a source they trust can overpower the nonsense circulating on the internet today.
In-person meetings or large gatherings aren’t ideal just yet. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t find a way to disseminate COVID-19 vaccine information to your employees. A webinar is an efficient solution. Ensure that you schedule it for a time that everyone can attend (or make it available 24/7 by recording and uploading it to your site). The webinars should be about the vaccines, company policies, exemptions, and reasonable accommodations. You should consider working with human resources, legal, and healthcare professionals to put your content together. This way, the information is accurate, up-to-date, and credible.
Sometimes, employees have something to say, but they don’t want to say it in front of a crowd. As getting the COVID-19 vaccine has a different impact for everyone, it may be best to schedule one-on-one meetings. Your employees will feel more comfortable opening up about individualized problems they’re having with getting the vaccine.
It could be a case of misinformation or wanting to wait a little longer to see how things pan out for others. It may also be something more significant, like religious beliefs or disabilities. Either way, allowing them to express themselves in a personal space lets them know that you care and you’re listening. If it’s an issue you can resolve (like giving them reputable information), they are more inclined to get the COVID-19 vaccine. If it can’t be fixed, at least you both got to hear each other out respectfully before any final decisions are made (on either end).
Although it may be in your company’s best interest to mandate everyone get the COVID-19 vaccine (with religious and disability exemptions), don’t be quick to enforce new policies. Everything is still fresh, and essential workers have already been through enough. Instead, start by using resources like those listed above to inform and encourage your employees to get vaccinated. Once you’re in a better position and have more information to make an informed decision, work with experts to develop a policy that works for everyone.