We now officially have two COVID-19 vaccines approved for emergency use in the United States.
By and large, that’s great news for business leaders. From returning to the office and an improving economy, the vaccines offer an encouraging development in the fight against COVID.
But as business leaders, the approval and roll-out of these vaccines pose a range of thorny questions.
Here are three keys leaders must consider when it comes to COVID vaccines.
1) Businesses Can Legally Mandate Employees Receive a Vaccination
Although it may seem extreme, legal experts agree that broadly speaking, businesses are well within their rights to mandate vaccinations.
Of course, like most issues in employment law, there are exceptions.
For example, you would likely run into legal trouble if you tried to mandate vaccination for someone with a disability or sincerely held religious beliefs that prevented them from getting the vaccine.
Another exception might be a business that operates entirely remotely.
Beyond these instances, most legal experts agree that businesses could legally fire an employee for not receiving the vaccine.
2) …But That Doesn’t Mean You Should Mandate It
But just because a mandatory vaccination is legal doesn’t mean it makes sense from a business perspective.
As many as 44% of Americans are wary about receiving a COVID vaccine.
Vaccines are typically developed over the course of 10-15 years, so the breakneck pace at which COVID vaccines have been developed and tested has left some uneasy.
Mandating vaccinations is highly likely to cause employee backlash and foster resentment among certain individuals.
If employers truly believe in mandating the vaccine, they should brace for either firing or accepting the resignations of employees who refuse.
3) So What’s the Best Strategy Here?
Business leaders are likely to feel caught between prioritizing the safety of their team and respecting employee’s choices about their own health and wellbeing.
Most business leaders are declining a mandate and instead offering education on the vaccine, as well as encouraging team members to get vaccinated.
It’s worth noting that even hospitals are not mandating a vaccination.
For 99% of businesses, education and encouragement is probably the best route to keep your team safe while respecting your team’s personal beliefs and choices.
If you’d like to learn more about how business leaders and HR can tackle current challenges, join us for our next Leadership & Legal live event!