As we move beyond the dark path created by the COVID-19 pandemic, we look forward to the prospect of greener pastures afforded through mass vaccinations. While the vaccination will lend itself greater control of the virus, it also presents a series of moral and ethical obligations to business owners of all sizes. There is no one size fits all approach to handling this topic in your workplace. We have created this document of frequently asked questions to help you navigate the vaccination decisions you will ultimately make for your business.
Can an employer require employees to be vaccinated?
- Yes, but this path is filled with exceptions and hurdles. It is true that employers can require their staff to take safety measures up to and including vaccinations. The employer's scope is wide when it comes to workplace safety rules. After all it is your business. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission already permits organizations to mandate the flu and other vaccines and indicates that they intend to do the same with the COVID-19 vaccine. Should you make vaccination a condition of employment, there are a couple things you should know.
- Exceptions to your rule may include religious or health reasons.
- Tracking compliance will become an administrative burden over time. You will want to be consistent to be compliant.
- Some employers may choose to "strongly encourage" staff to be vaccinated as an alternative course of action. In doing so they might have employees who are not vaccinated perform only certain activities.
- Unvaccinated employees might not be permitted to interact with customers without PPE.
- Unvaccinated employees may be required to provide their own ongoing PPE in the event PPE requirements are reduced.
- Unvaccinated employees might be restricted from tasks that could expose fellow staff or customers to conditions that they might have.
- Some employers may choose to remain silent on the subject of vaccinations. Though this sounds like the easy way out, it is not without peril. When faced with viable prevention options, employers who do not take steps to prevent spread could easily be targeted and cited by OSHA under the general duty clause.
Each business will answer this call to action differently. As leaders we must each be morally and ethically doing everything we can to protect the safety and well-being of our employees.
The Pharmacists Mutual Risk Management Center at www.phmic.com has several tools available for our clients use to ensure work sites are as safe as possible.