President Biden’s executive order for companies with over 100 employees to require COVID vaccinations have led to varied and polarized reactions from businesses nationwide. But despite the blowback, and official rules still pending from the administration and OSHA, some employers have already begun moving forward.
Navigating the policy decisions of your company merits careful thought and discussion, and should most definitely include opinions from legal counsel. Before announcing or enacting vaccine mandates for your employers or contractors, here are several key points to consider.
- Keep your eye on the courts. A recent Gallup poll found that two-thirds of U.S. employees either strongly favor (36%) or strongly oppose (29%) vaccine requirements, which means reactions to any policy you put in place will come with polarizing reactions. Some of those reactions may even lead to legal action, as they have in Texas. As vaccine policies continue to be challenged in court, keep your eyes on federal court decisions as well as updated guidance by organizations like the S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Thus far, at least one federal district court has upheld employers’ vaccine requirements as long as exemptions for disabilities or sincerely held religious beliefs are accepted.
- Seek legal advice from expert attorneys. Regardless of what’s occurring in the court system or among companies similar to yours, it’s critical that before enacting any vaccine policy you consult the legal experts. This includes attorneys who specialize in labor and business law and those versed in your state’s religious exemption
- Do your best and don’t expect it to be perfect. If there’s one thing the general public has learned since the onset of the COVID pandemic, it’s that information is fluid and guidance is constantly changing. When you couple those lessons learned with the unprecedented amount of blowback on vaccine mandates, there’s no way you can expect your company’s policy to be perfectly enacted. Make sure that when you’re devising any changes you do so with flexibility but firmness in mind. Your employees’ safety and upholding your company values should be the most important factors when it comes to making any policy decisions.
- Give ample time to communicate with your employees about changes. As with any policy change, especially one that is potentially contentious, it’s important to give employees ample lead time before anything goes into effect. Some HR experts say it’s a good idea to tell your team even when you’re simply considering requiring vaccines. That way you can hedge off any uncertainty or angst well before any policy goes into effect.
- Keep an open mind on where your employees are coming from and encourage them to do the best for them and their families. Safety should always be your utmost concern, which is what you should communicate to your team, but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss employee concerns that may be contrary to your policy. Be firm, but make sure you make quality time for any questions from your team. That means company meetings or one-on-one requests versus communicating your policy decisions via company memo.