As the COVID-19 surge flattens in many areas and business are evaluating return to offices, what should business owners consider related to employee vaccination? Should employers require vaccination? What risks are involved in that approach and what alternatives exist?
CDC Recommendations for Small Businesses
The CDC recognizes that small business owners have limited resources to host workplace vaccination clinics. It is also important to continue operations while employees are being vaccinated. The CDC suggests that employers educate and encourage vaccination with information.
- The vaccine is free regardless of immigration or health insurance status
- Employers can advise employees to stagger vaccination times to ensure continuity of operations
- Employers should offer flexible and non-punitive sick leave for employees who experience adverse side effects from the vaccine. This expense is eligible for a tax credit.
- Use CDC resources to build employee confidence in the vaccine – refer to the toolkit link below
- Develop a return to work plan inclusive of vaccinated and non-vaccinated employees
OSHA Stance on the Vaccine
Another consideration is what is OSHA’s stance on the vaccine and reporting? The answer depends upon whether the employer requires the vaccine or encourages employees to voluntarily be vaccinated.
- Requiring the vaccine means it is a condition of employment and affects the employee’s performance rating and professional advancement.
- If the vaccine is required, the employer must report missed time and adverse reactions to the vaccine on OSHA Logs.
- If the vaccine is voluntary, meaning it is not a condition of employment and does not affect the employee’s performance rating or professional advancement; then the employer does not need to report missed time or adverse reactions to the vaccine on OSHA Logs.
- Employers should be clear in their communication whether the vaccine is required or merely encouraged.
- Finally, if an employer decides to require vaccination, considerations must be made for accommodations related to disabilities (ADA) and religious beliefs (EEOC).
Employers are encouraged to check the CDC and state health websites for the latest information and recommendations as changes occur frequently.