Hiring with a COVID-19 vaccine mandate

April 26, 2022

The Occupational Safety and Health Authority's (OSHA) COVID-19 vaccination and testing emergency temporary standard (ETS) may have been withdrawn in January 2022, but this doesn't mean that the future isn't likely to see similar requirements come back into effect in the form of a more permanent standard. In fact, this is to be expected according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Exactly what a future permanent standard will look like is not yet clear though, as OSHA is strongly encouraging companies to continue requiring workers to provide proof of vaccination or weekly negative tests. The core of its guidance is not likely to change drastically from what it currently states.

It's important to establish your position as a company now, so you can be prepared to react to any legislation that may be approved in the coming months.

Prepare for the future of COVID-19

While the feeling of normalcy that over two years of living with COVID-19 has brought upon the nation, there are still uncertainties regarding the future of the virus and its impacts on the population. This is exemplified by the levels of employers adopting vaccine mandates regardless of the OSHA ETS stall, as reported by CNBC. The consensus is generally leaning toward expecting permanent standards to come into effect, so getting ahead of the game by implementing at least a simple model will only benefit employers in the long run.

Generally, it appears that employers implementing a vaccine mandate are doing so based on the guidance provided by OSHA. This guidance is relatively simple in its key points:

  • Facilitate vaccinations for employees, allowing paid time off work to do so.
  • Require unvaccinated employees to undergo regular testing.
  • Instruct infected employees to remain at home.
  • Inform employees of any infections so those working in close proximity can test and/or remain home too.
  • Maintain physical distancing and PPE protocols.
  • Educate and regularly remind employees of company policies regarding COVID-19 rules. This is particularly important as time goes on and complacency can set in, especially in regard to distancing and PPE.

Be clear about your position

Having a firm rule about vaccination requirements for employees can be quite a divisive issue, especially when it comes to recruiting. It's therefore recommended that, should you have an in-house policy in place, you make that clear at the very early stages of the recruitment process. Not only should you be transparent about the expectations of the company in regard to vaccinations, masks and any other regulations in place, but also clarify the reasons for these rules.

Providing an honest and forthcoming explanation to prospective employees gives them the autonomy to make an informed decision early in the process and negates the risk of reaching an impasse further down the line.

Bearing in mind that future official mandate standards are likely, though not yet in effect, it's also advisable to state as much to your employees and interviewees. In any documentation and guidance produced for employees, express clearly that the company's policies are internally determined and subject to change to align with governmental guidelines or mandates as and when these occur.

Reinforce a retained workforce

A survey conducted by SHRM found that 28% of employees in the U.S. would refuse to be vaccinated against COVID-19, even if it would cost them their jobs. Combine that with the prevailing likelihood of a governmental requirement for employees to be vaccinated, and it becomes logically sound to reason that fully vaccinating your staff now is going to pay dividends in the future. By adopting a vaccine mandate early, your company is more likely to see greater retention and better recruitment results in the future.