As the U.S. begins to administer the coronavirus vaccine following Federal Drug Administration (FDA) emergency approval last week, national research finds 49 percent of working Americans believe employers should require COVID-19 vaccines in the workplace. And even when a vaccine is in place, the vast majority of workers still want employers to require or encourage masks, social distancing, COVID-19 testing, and temperature checks, according to the 2020 Eagle Hill Consulting COVID-19 Vaccines and the Workplace Survey.
The research also finds that if employers require additional vaccinations following the initial round of inoculations, few believe employees should shoulder the cost (three percent). Instead, workers believe the federal government (38 percent), employers (25 percent), insurance providers (25 percent), or state/local government (eight percent) should pay for future required vaccinations. Also, more than half of employees (54 percent) believe that employers should pay for any COVID-19 testing required by employers.
“With COVID-19 vaccines in reach for workers, there indeed is reason to feel hopeful after a crushing year for families, businesses, and the economy. But the road ahead will be complicated for employers, as our research indicates,” said Melissa Jezior, president and chief executive officer of Eagle Hill Consulting. “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.”
Already, there are substantial concerns among Americans about a COVID-19 vaccine. And, previous Eagle Hill research indicates employees have low trust in their employers to manage through this crisis.
Now, employers face many complex issues and decisions when it comes to vaccines. For example, 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?
“Employers must get in front of the vaccine issue today,” Jezior said. “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. Instead, leaders are prudent to engage in conversations to understand the views of their workforce now to develop a vaccine strategy that is aligned with business goals and employee preferences.”
“There isn’t a one-size-fits all approach,” Jezior added. “Different industries will have different needs, and employees clearly have differing views as evidenced by the research. And when there is meaningful employee engagement, employers may discover new approaches. For example, employee incentives rather than mandates might be more appealing to workers.”
The research indicates that the level of support for compulsory workplace vaccinations varies by age and gender. Support among men is at 53 percent, and lower for women (44 percent). Younger workers are most supportive of employer mandated vaccines (62 percent), followed by Millennials (50 percent), GenX (46 percent) and Baby Boomers (46 percent).
When asked about the role employers should play with COVID-19 precautions even after a vaccine is widely available, there was broad support for employer involvement.
- Regarding masks, 53 percent support an employer requirement and 32 percent support employers encouraging mask use.
- Regarding social distancing, 40 percent support an employer requirement and 45 percent support employers encouraging social distancing.
- Regarding personal protective equipment, 26 percent support an employer requirement and 38 percent support employers encouraging use of personal protective equipment.
- When it comes to requiring regular COVID-19 testing, 24 percent support employer mandates and 46 percent support employers encouraging testing.
- For temperature checks at the workplace, 44 percent of employees support mandates and 34 percent support employers encouraging temperature checks.