By Raleigh F. “Sandy” Seay
Historians tell us that plagues or pandemics or epidemics are not uncommon in the continuing narrative of the Long Debate. In the last two centuries, we have seen the Spanish Flu, the Asian Flu, the Hong Kong Flu, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and now, COVID-19.(1) COVID-19 has run rampant yet we have hope that the end is in sight with the development of vaccines in record time. Medical experts tell me that the more people who are vaccinated, the quicker the pandemic will end. For employers, this raises a catalogue of questions and here are some of them:
1. Can You Require Employees to Be Vaccinated? The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has ruled that employers are allowed to require their employees to be vaccinated, with two exceptions based on religion or disability. An employee having a religious objection may not be required to receive the vaccination, nor may an employee possessing a disability that the vaccine might affect.
2. Do Employers Have Any Liability? There are three components– legal, insurance and management. Check with your attorney about legal liability and with your insurance agent about coverage questions. From an HR view, the concern is that an unvaccinated employee may transmit the virus to other employees or to customers. Reports tell us that vaccination can be up to 95 percent or more effective and that this will eliminate or greatly reduce the odds of employees contracting the virus. If an employer does not require the vaccination, however, and if employees, customers or patients are exposed and contract the virus, our sense is that the employer would be in a tough position, from the view of potential exposure and also from the negative publicity that might follow.
3. A Good Vaccination Policy for Employers. From an HR view, it seems to us at Seay Management that having employees vaccinated is a good idea and is, perhaps, the best course of action. It is likely that most employees will want to be vaccinated but if you have one or two who do not, it’s better to talk with them and use persuasion at first, giving them good, solid and personal reasons why they should be vaccinated. One way to persuade employees is to offer vaccination as an employee benefit. Another way is to offer incentives, such as an extra day of sick leave or an extra hour of pay. If your employees receive the vaccination while they are at work, this is compensable work time. At some point, you’ll have to decide whether to make continued employment contingent on getting vaccinated and if an employee refuses, absent a religious or disability objection, you’ll have to decide whether to dismiss the employee. This is not an easy decision and keep in mind that the policy must be applied to all employees equally. The question of vaccinations is evolving and more information will bubble up. In the meantime, we would be delighted to talk with you about any questions you may have.
NADL members have complimentary access to the Human Resource Hotline. Please contact us with any of your HR needs. www.seay.us
1 www.history.com. “Pandemics That Changed History.”
Reprinted from the April 2021 Issue of The Journal of Dental Technology