nytimes – Businesses Still Struggle With Their Immunization Policies

The message of many companies to their office workers is clear. Soon it will be time to get rid of the hard shoe slippers and get back to your office. But many companies are still stumped with just one dilemma: what to do with vaccines. Should they demand that employees get them? Encourage, cajole or corrupt them?

“We’re all kind of, you know, flying by the seat of our pants,” said Wayne Wager, general manager of Remote Medical International, a Seattle-based consulting firm that helps companies that reopen their offices. Mr Wager said his own company has yet to decide what to do, but will likely require anyone returning to be vaccinated.

Most companies hope to avoid the need for vaccines. The federal agency that enforces workplace discrimination laws says it can, but CEOs fear vaccination warrants could lead to lawsuits, invite political upheaval and be difficult to enforce. But they are worried about safety. An outbreak could force a company to withdraw from masking and social distancing policies, making it even more difficult to get back to normal. So they try everything but a warrant, without excluding one yet.

Almost a third of companies have yet to develop a vaccine policy, according to a survey of 770 companies conducted by human resources software company Tinypulse.

As companies weigh their options, many are asking employees to determine how many have already received an injection.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said last month that it was legal to ask employees for their immunization status. The EEOC also said companies could require workers to be vaccinated to come to the office, but they must take into account employees’ religious beliefs or health concerns like allergies. The solutions are to keep a worker alone or allow them to work remotely, experts say.

On Tuesday, Goldman Sachs sent an email telling employees they had to report their immunization status within two days.

Goldman is one of the few companies to make such disclosures mandatory. While not requiring proof, the bank has advised employees that lying about their status could result in disciplinary action, including dismissal.

Other companies do pay employees to share their status, or encourage them to do so without quite mandating it. Walmart, for example, offers $ 75 to any worker who shows proof of vaccination. Bank of America told employees who wish to return to the office that they have the option of uploading their immunization status to the company’s internal system.

“We had around 50,000 teammates who provided the information and gave us the opportunity to call it back,” the bank’s chief executive, Brian Moynihan, said last month at a hearing of the financial services committee of the bank. Bedroom.

Some companies are asking workers about their immunization status, hoping that a high rate will make mandatory vaccinations more acceptable, said Johnny Taylor, chief executive of the Society for Human Resource Management. “Once we hit 70%, CEOs like me feel comfortable saying, you know what, the will of the employee population has spoken,” Mr. Taylor said, noting that exceptions should always. be made for those who have religious or health reasons.

On the other hand, this data can allow a company to avoid a mandate altogether.

“For many workplaces, it will be difficult to argue that getting the bottom 10 percent of people vaccinated is what is needed to create a safe workplace,” said Dr Jeff Levin-Scherz, a physician who directs the coronavirus response to the consulting firm. Willis Towers Watson law firm.

To increase the proportion of employees vaccinated, companies are trying to facilitate vaccination.

About 42% of companies plan to offer the vaccination on-site, and 56% plan to pay employees for the time they spend getting vaccinated, according to an upcoming Willis Towers Watson survey of 660 employers.

One effective tactic to get employees to get vaccinated, experts say, is to put senior managers first.

PPG, a Pittsburgh-based paint manufacturer, mandates vaccines only for its management team. It also offers coronavirus testing and injections at its facilities in Monroeville, Pennsylvania.

“It worked really well,” CEO Michael McGarry said at the company’s general meeting on April 15. “But we won’t mandate him.”

Only 11% of businesses surveyed by Willis Towers Watson offer financial incentives, with more than half of those incentives worth less than $ 100.

Such incentives can be costly. In an agreement between United Airlines and the Air Line Pilots Association, which represents more than 59,000 pilots, airlines pay fully vaccinated pilots a bonus equivalent to 13 hours’ wages. (In a similar deal with the Association of Flight Attendants, he pays the equivalent of nine hours and 45 minutes of wages.)

The companies that have so far mandated vaccines tend to be in industries such as healthcare, where unvaccinated employees pose a high health risk, or companies with relatively few employees. Although these have come with a certain hindsight. Airlines, which carry hundreds of passengers from around the world, have also been more aggressive. United and Delta Air Lines are demanding vaccines for new employees, a move that may be easier to implement than a general mandate, but which may also have little impact on current crews.

New York-based media startup Quartz reopened this month with a vaccine requirement. He made the decision after repeatedly interviewing his 104 employees, said Zach Seward, the chief executive.

“People have said loud and clear that they want the confidence to know that everyone is vaccinated,” Seward said.

Mr Seward said he had not heard any complaints, although he noted that it was likely a “privilege to be a small business”.

Saks Fifth Avenue is demanding that all 500 employees in its Manhattan Financial District office get vaccinated. Marc Metrick, its chief executive, said Saks would have a “housing process” for those who could not be vaccinated.

When immunization rates are lower, mandates can be more complicated. This is in part because there is more resistance and because legislation limiting the ability to require vaccines for students, employees or the general public has been proposed in at least 25 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Potential legal issues worry JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, who mentioned the concerns when discussing vaccine requirements. Still, Mr Dimon, a vocal critic of remote working, told the bank’s annual meeting of shareholders on May 18 that the bank would “consider making the vaccine mandatory at some point.”

So far, the bank has only strongly encouraged it – and has asked employees who wish to do without masks at its offices in the United States to first register their vaccination status in its system.

Sapna Maheshwari contributed reporting.

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