Is your organization considering a vaccine mandate, surcharge or incentive?
With vaccines in the US now readily available, many large organizations have mandated their employees to be vaccinated. Other organizations are incentivizing employees, and some have even started to create surcharges. This topic is on the mind of countless employers throughout the US as Covid-19 is on the rise and the need for employees to be vaccinated increases. The vaccines have proven to be effective at keeping individuals protected from the life-threatening effects Covid-19 poses should they contract it, making the potential of office reopenings all the more reasonable. This translates into a healthier more sustainable workforce, increased productivity, and lower healthcare costs for employers.
As you consider the right course of action for your organization, it’s important to understand the potential implications from a legal standpoint. This article provides more insight into the legal implications. Here are a few highlights:
- Vaccine mandates are generally acceptable. The main area to pay special attention to is Title VII of the Civil rights acts and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) both of which require employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees with health conditions or religious reasons. It is important that employers carefully review and implement processes to comply with reasonable accommodations necessary for mandates. President Biden’s most recent announcement may move this strategy along faster for large organizations and the Department of Labor (DOL) will be releasing new requirements to support this for organizations with 100 or more employees.
- Vaccine incentives have recently been addressed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The important details here are related to the amount of the incentive and where it is administered. Employers need to understand two main things: how to structure the incentive amount online with EEOC guidance and that this is dependent on how/where the employee receives the vaccine.
- Vaccine surcharges or penalties is the latest strategy to surface. No guidance has yet been released from the government to help employers navigate this strategy, however, employers should take into consideration that implementing this could constitute a Wellness Program. This would be subject to the specific rules under the Health Insurance Portability and Affordability Act (HIPAA), ADA, and ACA affordability rules and possibly other laws depending on how the program is structured.
In addition to these considerations, employers are also battling with a very tight labor market and the possibility of losing members of their workforce. There is fear that by implementing vaccine mandates, surcharges or incentives that employers will lose staff that they cannot afford to lose in a war for talent.
In the weeks and months ahead, we can expect these strategies to gain more traction. We’ll learn more about how different employers are proceeding, and receive more guidance from the Federal government. Implementing some or all of these strategies could be very important to the health and sustainability of many organizations. Implementation should also be planned out thoroughly with legal counsel to ensure compliance with any applicable laws, and with HR professionals to maintain consideration of all employees and their benefits.
Whatever your choice may be when it comes to vaccine protocols for your employees, let us help make a plan! Whether it’s about benefits counseling, a strategy rollout, or employee wellbeing, we’re here to help. Chat with an expert today for consulting, more resources, or to address the support your business requires.