More than half of all people in the United States (53.8%) have now been vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While still a far cry from the 70% goal President Joe Biden had predicted, it does show some progress is being made.
For workplaces, though, some thorny questions are emerging: Should employees who have not yet been vaccinated be asked, or required, to return to the workplace? Should employers require employees to be vaccinated in order to return to work?
Opinions vary widely about the best approach to take. But employees themselves seem to favor an approach that errs on the side of safety, according to recent research from Haven Life. Respondents overwhelmingly (83%) believe their employers will provide them with a safe environment once they return to the workplace.
Erring on the Side of Safety
Respondents to Haven Life’s research are pro-vaccine and pro-mask: 53% indicate they believe vaccinations should be mandatory for employees to return to work, and 71% feel employers should continue to require mask-wearing.
Amid this environment, employers have a slippery slope to navigate. When opinions are split—or polarized—it’s obviously impossible to address all employees’ needs and preferences.
To Mandate or Not to Mandate
While the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has indicated that employers can require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before returning to the workplace, some remain wary of doing so. This is based on both concerns that the vaccines have not yet been fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the uncertain legal environment that still exists and “the long list of legal considerations the E.E.O.C. says they must follow before mandating vaccines.”
There is no “one size fits all” approach to vaccine-related considerations. Employers will need to consider their unique situations, where they’re located, the state of the virus in their area, the demographic nature of their workforce, the customers they serve, and more as they navigate the uncertainty of bringing employees back to work before vaccines have been fully approved.
Communication Is Key
As with any workplace considerations and policies, communication is going to be critical as employees return and employers develop and share their policies around vaccination.
Employee and customer safety needs to be top of mind, and employers will need to remain flexible as they address varying employee sentiment and concerns around their own health and safety.
Opening up lines of communication and gathering input from employees can help employers determine the best steps to take. Ongoing polls monitoring employee sentiment can help employers stay abreast of concerns and how those concerns may be ebbing and flowing.