How Employers Are Handling Vaccine Mandates


President Joe Biden recently imposed vaccine requirements on the private sector. Through a combination of executive orders and new federal rules, he made it mandatory for businesses that have 100 or more employees to require full vaccination against COVID-19 or submit to mandatory weekly testing.

Companies are waiting to get more guidance in the form of a drafted rule from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Also, Biden recently met with U.S. CEOs, including the chief executives of Walt Disney Co, Microsoft Corp., and Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. to encourage them to require employees to get vaccinated.

In addition, Biden is requiring all federal workers, even those who work remotely and contractors, to get fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before Nov. 22, 2021. This mandate impacts an estimated 100 million American workers. The New York Times reports that it accounts for about two-thirds of American employees. New hires who start on or after Nov. 22 should be fully vaccinated when their employment begins.

READ: Considerations When Implementing a Vaccine Mandate

Trying to Keep Up

These new requirements come on the heels of rising COVID-19 cases and concerns about an impasse in the number of Americans getting vaccinated. So far, nearly 56% of Americans are fully vaccinated. Employers want the economy to continue bouncing back, but the COVID-19 Delta variant is complicating matters, especially where vaccination rates are low.

There are other indications that companies are trying to navigate the new world and find a way to keep their workplaces safe. Job posts stating that new hires must be vaccinated doubled from July to August 2021, according to Indeed. Although the number is still relatively low at about 1,200 postings per million, the number is rising.

READ: Are Your Employees Anxious About Returning to Work? 

Still, vaccine mandates have become a politically charged topic, so many are reluctant to make vaccination a requirement of employment. Others see a mandate as a necessity to get their businesses flourishing again. Find out how different companies are navigating vaccine mandates or coming up with alternatives to requirements:

Charging the Unvaccinated for Healthcare

After the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against coronavirus, Delta Airlines announced that it would charge unvaccinated employees an extra $200 per month for their healthcare plan. After the company’s announcement, 20% of the 20,000 unvaccinated Delta employees went for their vaccination, according to The Hill. In addition, even before Biden’s mandate, those who worked for Delta and opted to remain unvaccinated had to get tested for COVID-19 every week and wear a mask indoors.

Rewarding the Vaccinated

Some companies are rewarding the vaccinated rather than punishing the unvaccinated. Southwest Airlines, for instance, is providing two days of bonus pay to vaccinated employees. They will receive the money in their paycheck just before Christmas, according to the Dallas Morning News. This is a prime example of positive reinforcement. People, who could use the money, might be motivated to get the vaccine. Again, employers are not coming out and insisting anyone get the vaccine. They are just giving them a good reason to seriously consider it.

Nudging Employees to Get Vaccinated

Some large employers, such as General Motors and Ford, are encouraging employees to get vaccinated without requiring it yet, according to Reuters. By supporting vaccination, employers are serving as role models for their employees. At the same time, they are not forcing anyone to do something they don’t want to do. It is a diplomatic way of pushing the unvaccinated toward inoculation. The question remains how effective this method will be. Also, some of these companies might move to mandate vaccines once more approval of them comes from the FDA.

Outright Mandate

In July, the Walt Disney Company announced that U.S.-based, salaried employees and nonunion hourly workers would have to get vaccinated. The company even struck a deal with union workers at Walt Disney World Resorts in Orlando, Fla., according to CNBC. While there has been some minor backlash, Disney is in the tourism industry, which was hit hard by the pandemic. Disney resorts and theme parks lost billions during the peak of the outbreak.

Having vaccinated employees or cast members, as Disney refers to them, should give visitors peace of mind. A vaccinated crew also means paying less for healthcare, having fewer people calling out sick at the same time, and the opportunity to set the standard for what some think are inevitable vaccine mandates.

Regardless of whether companies decide to use the stick or the carrot vaccine mandates in the United States or globally, these executive decisions are meant to keep people safe and get the economy up and running again. It will be a difficult and emotional path to navigate for many HR teams in various sectors. The main challenge for HR professionals will be to help management find the right vaccine strategy for their organization to help keep their employees and customers safe.

If you have heard of any other incentives or penalties, feel free to reach out to and we will keep you updated on this new and evolving challenge.

Photo by Pavel Danilyuk for Pexels 

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