Can Employers Require Mandatory Vaccinations?

December 29, 2020 - minute read

After months of anticipation, multiple vaccines have finally emerged to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic directly. With proper execution, the widespread use of these vaccines could lower infection and death rates, revive the economy and its supply chains, and help people transition back to some forms of normalcy. For employers, however, there’s a lot to consider.

Can you require your employees to get vaccinated? If yes, how would U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance be effected? Is it safer to leave it up to employee choice?

Let’s discuss the pros and cons of requiring employees to get vaccinated. That way, when the time comes, you’ll know exactly how you want to begin structuring your policy and operational plans.

Can You Require Your Employees to Get Vaccinated?

The short answer? Yes.

You can require workers to get a COVID-19 vaccine, as well as bar them from the workplace if they refuse so long as they do not qualify for legal accommodation. According to the federal guidance issued last week, you may implement a mandatory vaccination policy once the FDA-approved vaccines are available for widespread use so long as you uphold the proper anti-discrimination laws.

The ADA limits actions requiring blood tests, breath analyses and other types of medical screening because the information being sought concerns an employee’s physical and mental conditions. Administering a vaccine for defense against COVID-19 does not seek such information and is, therefore, not considered a medical examination.

In terms of the EEOC, you must also take into consideration workers who refuse to get vaccinated due to a medical disability or sincerely held religious belief. So long as these extra accommodations are carefully planned for and fulfilled compliantly, requiring the remaining members of your workforce to get vaccinated is allowed.

Pros of Requiring Vaccinations

Just because you are allowed to require vaccinations, does not mean you are required to do so. That said, the CDC has clarified some of the benefits of doing so:

  • It could help boost employee immunity against a virus that has taken the lives of over 300,000 Americans.
  • It could lower employer liabilities as they relate to employees contracting the COVID-19 virus in the workplace.
  • It could reduce costs by reducing absences due to COVID-19 infection.
  • It would likely already be covered under employee health plans, so you wouldn’t necessarily need to pay costly out-of-pocket fees.
  • It would safeguard against further shutdowns and costs related to positive cases and workplace sanitation efforts.
  • It could help boost morale and make employees feel safer.

Cons of Requiring Vaccinations

On the flipside, there are some potential drawbacks, especially since these vaccines are fairly new. Here are a few of the primary concerns facing employers:

  • It would require your HR personnel to create new employee handbook policies and adopt additional HR initiatives.
  • It would require a robust employee outreach system and ongoing communication in order to track who has been vaccinated.
  • It could negatively impact employee morale because of dissenting opinions about the vaccine, especially by those who do not have a valid reason for special accommodation.
  • It could lead to difficult decision-making such as determining whether or not to terminate a valuable employee for refusing to accept a vaccine for reasons other than legal

Need Help with COVID-19 Compliance?

At EPAY Systems, we are committed to walking each step of the COVID journey with our partners. As new workforce management practices become necessary, such as creating a vaccination policy for your workforce, our technology can help ease your HR burdens and keep your operation compliant.

Our HR Compliance Portal, which is part of our Human Capital Management system, can help answer your simple compliance questions on a variety of hourly workforce issues—especially as it concerns COVID-19. Plus, if our portal can’t help answer your question, we also offer HR Consulting Services. With the help of our SHRM-certified HR specialists, you can rest assured you are making the best decisions for your business.

Take a tour of our full HCM system, or request a personalized demo today!

Filed Under: Compliance COVID-19 Human Resources