Mandatory vs. Voluntary Vaccines: What Do Employers Need to Know?


Mandatory vs. Voluntary Vaccines: What Do Employers Need to Know?

Have you heard the word “unprecedented” enough in the last year? Now that vaccine distribution is underway, and many Americans opt to receive the shots, human resources managers might be curious about additional challenges or concerns about how vaccine distribution could impact day-to-day operations.


And yes, the word unprecedented still very much applies. Many employers have questions such as:

  • What is my obligation when it comes to mandatory vaccine programs?
  • Are there any issues with employees providing proof of vaccination or screening?
  • How does vaccine distribution affect Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) concerns?


Employers and Mandatory Vaccine Programs

Suppose you have a mandatory vaccine program in place. In that case, it is essential to pay close attention to your responsibilities regarding the Civil Rights Act, the ADA, the Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act (GINA), OSHA guidelines, and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

If an employee has a personal religious belief, disability, or any other issue preventing them from taking the vaccine, you may need to provide reasonable accommodations. You should also take into consideration any potential harm to others by not receiving the vaccine.


Tracking Mandatory Vaccination Programs In Your Company

If considering a mandatory vaccination program, employers and companies can ensure their workforce is protected by tracking compliance.

That way, they can stay on top of:

  • employees who have received the vaccine;
  • individuals who do not want the vaccine or oppose the mandatory program;
  • anyone who requires accommodations;
  • and other unique circumstances.

Companies that enact mandatory programs should also be prepared for the administrative side of tracking, as keeping up with the above items will require time and might tax resources available.

Tracking programs, however, are generally not recommended if your company’s vaccination program is voluntary, as it can lead to complications or other issues, such as inconsistency.


Carefully Managing Employee Information

Companies who require or ask for proof of vaccination or pre-screening information should consider how carefully they’ll need to manage forms and other data.

Caution is recommended since the ADA, GINA, and the HIPAA acts have strict parameters as to the information companies require. Pre-screen questions should be job-related and consistent with business necessity.

Even though they might not mean to, employees might also inadvertently provide medical information, so protocol must be in place to comply with HIPAA.


Should My Company Pursue Mandated or Voluntary Vaccine Programs?

Before deciding, take a look at the factors above. Mandatory vaccinations can undoubtedly expedite the return of ‘normalcy,’ which is appealing to many workers.

But there are some drawbacks and limitations to consider if you have employees who may not feel comfortable receiving a vaccine for personal, medical, or religious reasons.

Voluntary programs rely on employees’ self-reporting, which could lead to other issues if there are adverse reactions. It can also take much longer to ensure that your workforce is fully vaccinated, and safety issues might continue to arise.

Whether mandatory or voluntary, each company’s vaccine program will look different. It will rely on HR professionals working hand-in-gloved-hand with leadership to ensure employees stay healthy and safe, as well as keeping in mind workers’ rights and limitations.


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