Should you COVID-19 vaccine mandate shots—or not?
This is a question many employers are grappling with. And for good reason. Despite still being very much in the grip of a deadly pandemic, a substantial number of U.S. residents have serious concerns about the efficacy and safety of the vaccines. Data from Pew Research Center finds that 20% of people are “pretty certain” they won’t take the vaccine—even after receiving more information about it.
Amid a backdrop of massive “pandemic fatigue” and skepticism about the efficacy of the historically fast-tracked inoculations that will soon be available, employers must make a tough choice on how to proceed. Among the questions at play:
- How will your company communicate about COVID-19 vaccinations?
- Will you take a hard stand on this issue?
- Will those who refuse to get the vaccine be allowed to enter the office?
- Can you legally force workers to get inoculated?
- What about those who object to getting the vaccine on medical or religious grounds?
- How do you plan to respond to employee objections—or to those who are vocal and skeptical about the efficacy of vaccinations?
Of course, employees should have a say in all this. Or should they? Employers can, in most cases, compel workers to get a vaccine. But doing so could come at a serious cost in terms of trust, engagement and retention.
Blind recently surveyed its community of nearly 4 million employees to gauge workers’ opinions on the COVID-19 vaccine. It asked:
- Do you think employers have the right to ask their employees to get vaccinated before returning to the office?
- Would you get vaccinated if your employer asked you to?
- Would you go back to the office if vaccines were not mandatory?
Of nearly 3,280 responses, “67% of professionals believe employers should require proof of vaccination before returning to office,” and 72% said they’d get vaccinated “if their employer asked them to.”
That’s certainly a strong majority, but the anonymous comments about Blind’s survey offer plenty of mitigating circumstances for employers to chew on. As one Google employee wrote, “I’m taking the vaccine, but I would leave a company that tried to force it. I won’t work at a place that forces medical decisions on its workers.” A PayPal staffer chimed in with, “Lol you can’t even mandate masks in U.S. How do you think there will be a vaccine mandate?”
Some of the responses open up a can of worms you might not have considered, such as the potential for fraud. One Microsoft employee writes, “I would forge it. Not that hard to do.” Meanwhile, an Apple employee responding to Blind’s survey claims to have trypanophobia—an extreme fear of needles—is that enough to exclude someone from a shot?
How would your company respond if your employees took similar actions—or inactions? One Optive employee says, “I wouldn’t even answer if they ask me if I got it. My health decisions are none of their business.”
Returning to normalcy?
If your company is eager to bring employees back to the office in 2021, you could be in for resistance. According to Blind’s data: “Only 36% of professionals said they would go back to the in-person office if vaccines were not mandatory.” Of those surveyed:
- 14% of Oracle professionals said they would go back to the in-person office if vaccines were not mandatory.
- 19% of Intuit professionals said they would go back to the in-person office if vaccines were not mandatory
- 21% of IBM professionals said they would go back to the in-person office if vaccines were not mandatory
Of course, you won’t please or appease everyone. All you can do is try to ensure your workplace—and workforce—are as safe, secure and protected as possible. You will almost assuredly have detractors and noisy objectors among your ranks. Better to determine now how you’ll deal with these issues when they arise later in the year.