Is Your Business Mandating the COVID-19 Vaccine? [What Your Vaccine Policy Should Cover]

Written by Dianne Wilson on September 3, 2021

Warren Averett vaccine policy image Blog Tags: HR

The topic of vaccines is incredibly sensitive in today’s environment, and making the vaccine mandatory for your employees demands many serious considerations.

If your organization has decided to implement a vaccine mandate, or if you are considering doing so, it’s important to understand and abide by the respective legal guidance and to communicate clearly with your employees through a documented vaccine policy.

Can employers mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for their employees?

Yes. The latest U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidance on the COVID-19 vaccine generally states that employers are legally allowed to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for employees.

Now that the Pfizer vaccine has full FDA approval, many employers feel a little more confident in their ability to mandate the shot.

How should organizations that choose to mandate the vaccine do so?

If your organization makes the decision to mandate vaccination, it’s important to take steps to minimize your risk.

A vaccine policy must be created, documented and clearly communicated with your employees well in advance of a full implementation. In your communication to your team members, provide a clear explanation for the reasons behind implementing the policy. This will be key to establishing support from your employees.

Which employees would a vaccine policy apply to?

A vaccine policy should include anyone working in your workspace, including remote and non-remote employees, full-time and part-time employees, contract employees and interns.

Employers who are requiring the vaccine should always consider religious and disability-related exceptions and explore sensible accommodations.

Should employees be compensated for time away from work related to the vaccine?

Federal law states that time spent getting a vaccine during normal working hours is compensable time. Companies mandating the vaccine should provide paid leave for time spent getting the vaccine and time out due to side effects of the vaccine.

How should an employer verify vaccination?

If an employer does wish to make the vaccine mandatory, consider having employees receive the vaccine from a third party, such as a health care provider or pharmacy. The employer can then ask to see the vaccination card that was received from the third party. There should be no other medical information given to the employer to reduce liability.

What should a vaccine policy include?

If your organization is mandating the COVID-19 vaccine, your vaccine policy should establish clarity for your team about what to expect. Your policy should clearly cover:

  • Who it applies to (Employees, as well as whether your policy extends to your vendors and customers)
  • When employees should receive the full vaccine
  • How employees are to provide proof of vaccination
  • Information about paid leave related to the vaccine and side effects
  • Confirmation that medical privacy will be strictly adhered to
  • Instructions for those employees who need to request special accommodation to not receive the vaccine
    • Your vaccine policy should clearly define who they need to speak with, and the company should be ready to provide the accommodation requests.
    • Accommodation requests are very specific to certain health conditions as defined by the employee’s treating physician and for documented religious doctrine.
  • Consequences for noncompliance
    • Policies should be very specific about employees who don’t get the vaccine by the documented deadline without an approved accommodation.
    • Consequences for failure to receive the vaccine should include time off without pay until they are compliant and, potentially, termination.

What about new hires?

Vaccine policies should be part of any job posting for new hires to ensure the policy remains consistent.

What should organizations do to encourage vaccination without mandating that employees receive the vaccine?

If employers don’t choose to make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory, you can still supply education and knowledge regarding the vaccine to employees or offer a workplace vaccination program and other incentives.

Employers who offer a workplace vaccination program can help make it easier for employees to receive the vaccine by having an on-site clinic. The on-site clinic should be held during work hours, and the vaccine would be free to the employees.

A workplace vaccination program is not recommended if the employer is choosing to mandate the vaccine.

Need Help With Vaccine Policies and Guidance for Your Organization?

If you have questions about vaccination guidance, please reach out to a Warren Averett Workplace or HR Solutions advisor who can help.

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