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As the U.S. starts administering the coronavirus vaccine, the good news is that the end of the pandemic is in sight. Employers, however, may face  new issues and decisions when it comes to vaccination and the workplace. Should employers mandate vaccines before employees return to the workplace? Will employment be at risk if an employee refuses vaccination? Will certain employees be exempt? Who will pay for any future employer mandated COVID-19 testing and vaccines?

Employee Support?

“Employers must get in front of the vaccine issue today,” said Melissa Jezior, president and chief executive officer of Eagle Hill Consulting. “There has never been a more crucial time for meaningful employee engagement, which could make or break organizations already struggling. It won’t be enough to just announce vaccine plans to employees.” She adds, “Instead, leaders are prudent to engage in conversations to understand the views of their workforce now… For example, employee incentives—rather than mandates—might be more appealing to workers.”

According to a national survey conducted by Eagle Hill, 49% of working Americans believe employers should require COVID-19 vaccines in the workplace. “The workforce clearly is split on employer vaccine mandates, so it’s going to be contentious no matter where an employer lands on inoculation requirements,” said Jezior.

The level of support for compulsory workplace vaccinations varies by age and gender. Support among men is at 53%, and lower for women at 44%. Younger workers (62%) are most supportive of employer mandated vaccines, followed by Millennials (50%), GenX (46%) and Baby Boomers (46%).

Masks & More

The research also finds that even when a vaccine is in place, the vast majority of workers want employers to require or encourage masks, social distancing, COVID-19 testing, and temperature checks.

  • Regarding masks, 53% support an employer requirement and 32% support employers encouraging mask use.
  • Regarding social distancing, 40% support an employer requirement and 45% support employers encouraging social distancing.
  • Regarding personal protective equipment, 26% support an employer requirement and 38% support employers encouraging use of personal protective equipment.
  • When it comes to requiring regular COVID-19 testing, 24% support employer mandates and 46% support employers encouraging testing.
  • For temperature checks at the workplace, 44% of employees support mandates and 34% support employers encouraging temperature checks.
According to the survey, if employers require additional vaccinations following the initial round of inoculations, few (3%) believe employees should shoulder the cost. Instead, workers believe the federal government (38%), employers (25%), insurance providers (25%) or state/local government (8%) should pay for future required vaccinations. Also, more than half of employees (54%) believe that employers should pay for any required COVID-19 testing required by employers.
The 2020 Eagle Hill Consulting COVID-19 Vaccines and the Workplace Survey was conducted by Ipsos from December 4 -8, 2020. The survey included 1005 respondents from a random sample of employees across the U.S. Eagle Hill has offices in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, Boston, MA, and Seattle, WA.
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