COVID-19 Vaccine Information for Employers
What employers need to know now about the COVID-19 Vaccine
At Flex HR, we are always keeping up with the latest in HR-related news for 2021 on behalf of our valued clients. That’s why we put together this cheat sheet of COVID-19 vaccine information for business leaders.
Employers Can Recommend the Vaccine to Employees
Most legal counsel and the EEOC are encouraging employers to recommend rather than require the vaccine. The EEOC did confirm that the vaccine itself is not a “medical examination” under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), but that pre-vaccination questions may be “disability-related inquiries.” While the guidance potentially limits an employer’s direct involvement in administering the vaccine it also allows them to require proof of receipt of the vaccine. Other considerations for requiring the vaccine include employee relations, risk tolerance, vaccine availability and organization culture.
Ways to Encourage Employees to Get COVID-19 Vaccinations
There are multiple ways that employers can encourage employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine:
- Developing vaccine communication programs
- Assisting employees with logistical information to help them get access to the vaccine
- Offering paid time off to receive the vaccine
- Providing information from the CDC to aid employees in making a decision
- Have top management get the vaccine and communicate that by distributing a picture
- Offer a gift card or water bottle for those who get the vaccine and show proof of obtaining
Vaccine Policy Exemptions to Consider
An employer should consider that there are two policy exemptions for any COVID vaccination requirement: 1) religious belief exemptions under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and 2) medical exemptions under the ADA. If one of the exemptions applies, then employers need to provide an accommodation to the vaccine. If no accommodation can be made an employee may in certain cases be terminated but an employer should use extreme caution with this and should consult their legal counsel.
Vaccine Administration Under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the FDA
If employers consider mandating the vaccine under an EUA warning by the FDA, they should use caution and consult with an HR Professional or legal counsel. The EUA informs a person has the option to accept or refuse the vaccine and that the FDA has authorized the emergency use of the vaccine with its known, unknown, and potential benefits and risks. Again, you will need to allow employees to opt-out as discussed above.
Providing Incentives Within a Company Wellness Program for Employees to Get Vaccinated
The EEOC has confirmed that the administration of the vaccine itself is not a medical examination, which means it does not necessarily trigger the ADA. But depending on how a company wellness program is structured, it could touch on compliance issues under ADA, ERISA, HIPAA , or GINA. If the ADA does apply because of a wellness program, the vaccine will be subjected to the ADA’s “voluntary” standard, which limits the incentive allowed. Legislation promoted recently could limit this reward even more to a “de minimus” threshold, like a water bottle or gift card of modest value.
Employers should focus on updating their policies and procedures to include COVID-19 related information. Companies turn to Flex HR to ensure they are keeping compliant and doing so accurately. For more communications on the Coronavirus impact on your business, check out our Coronavirus resources.
Source: McGriff COVID-19 Vaccinations: Top Questions and the CHRO of Flex HR
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