Tips to create vaccine-related and return-to-work procedures that meet the needs of all employees and follow applicable laws. Editor’s note: This article is available for members only.
With the news this week that President Joe Biden’s plan for the COVID-19 vaccine shows there will be enough doses available for all adults in the U.S. by the end of May, it’s a good time for companies to start evaluating their own plans and get written policies for their employees on the books.
On March 3, Elizabeth Blanco and Rachel Morris, attorneys with Sessions, Israel & Shartle LLC, returned to the ACA Huddle for “COVID Mary Gets the Vaccine,” where they reviewed COVID-19 vaccination policies and what employers need to know.
Citing a recent study from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), Blanco said 60% of human resources professionals and U.S. employees surveyed will “probably or definitely” get the vaccine when it’s available to them, while about 28% said they would not get the vaccine, even if it meant losing their job.
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Blanco and Sessions reviewed whether companies could mandate the vaccine versus encouraging employees to get it and providing education about their options, as well as applicable laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Here are a few takeaways from their presentation:
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vaccination mandates depend on state or other applicable law, but it is allowed to ask for proof of a COVID-19 vaccination from employees who choose to get it, as long as it doesn’t disclose any medical information. A good example of proof is the vaccination card an employee will receive from their health care provider or pharmacy. Find more information in the CDC’s essential workers toolkit.
- Blanco and Sessions said the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is expected to release guidance on requirements for employees related to the COVID-19 vaccine and safe work environments this month. Regardless of whether employees decide to get the vaccine, companies still need to consider plans for accommodating the needs of employees who cannot for religious or health reasons and the safety of all employees. Make sure to consider your company’s location and state and government requirements and how many people you need to work in the office versus how many can continue to work from home. If an employee says they cannot or chooses not to get the vaccine or work in the office, ask for them to document the information in writing.
- When it comes to informing employees about the COVID-19 vaccine, education and training about options are permitted and OSHA has information available now, in addition to the guidance that is expected in the coming weeks.
- Create a written policy for vaccine-related and return-to-work procedures and consult with your labor attorney. It can include information such as requiring proof from employees who choose to get the vaccine and incentives related to the vaccine and returning to the office. However, it’s best to proceed with caution with incentives. Offering vaccination incentives could give rise to discrimination claims from employees who cannot or will not get the vaccine. Examples of incentives include paid time off, which should include the time to get and recover from the vaccine, if needed. If employers choose to offer incentives, they should be prepared to offer them to all employees regardless of whether they get the vaccine, and for employees to request the incentives for other reasons.
A recording of Sessions and Blanco’s discussion will be available here, where members can also find archives of all ACA Huddle webinars. An upcoming ACA Huddle will also revisit work-from-home best practices and how members can plan for returning their employees to work safely.
Each ACA Huddle, sponsored by Connect International, Solutions by Text, Pay N Seconds and QBE, also features an update on the current landscape for receivables businesses from a federal and state advocacy perspective, as well as compliance.
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This article is for general informational purposes only and is not legal advice and should not be construed as legal advice. The information in this article is descriptive only. Actual coverage is subject to the language of the policies as issued.