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Few Employers Embrace Covid Vaccine Mandates, Survey Shows

Feb. 9, 2021, 10:30 AM

A small fraction of employers require their workers to get vaccinated against Covid-19 or plan to impose such mandates in the future, according to a survey conducted by management-side law firm Littler Mendelson.

Less than 1% of the 1,800 in-house lawyers, human resources professionals, and top executives surveyed said their companies have coronavirus vaccine mandates in place, the firm said in a report released on Tuesday. Just 6% of respondents said they’ll impose inoculation requirements when vaccines become more widely available or get federal approval through the full, non-emergency process.

The survey results signal that companies are taking employment lawyers’ advice that encouraging and facilitating vaccine use is preferable to requiring it, even though private-sector employers generally have the authority to impose vaccine mandates.

“We’ll see if employers stay with the approach that’s most recommended, as opposed to more and more turning to mandates,” said Barry Hartstein, an attorney who leads Littler’s Covid-19 vaccination working group.

Workplace vaccine requirements may be particularly attractive for companies in certain industries, such as cruise ships, hotels, and airlines, Hartstein said.

Still, 48% of survey respondents already have decided against a mandate, compared with 43% that are still considering it, according to the Littler report.

Employers are most concerned about mandates disrupting the workplace, the survey results suggested. Nearly four of five respondents cited potential worker resistance as a worry, while two of three reported concerns about negative impacts on employee morale and company culture.

Incentive Structure

In contrast to the skepticism about mandates, the survey results show that promoting and facilitating vaccine use has emerged as a popular option for companies.

Nearly nine of 10 respondents said their companies plan on giving vaccine information to employees. In addition, 37% said they plan to offer on-site vaccine administration, 33% said they plan to provide paid time off to get a shot, and 11% said they plan to give cash rewards and other monetary incentives.

Some employment attorneys have pointed out some vaccine incentives could expose companies to liability under federal anti-bias law, although the law is unclear.

One open issue is whether incentives could be seen as so enticing as to be unlawfully coercive. Another is whether providing bonuses discriminates against workers who can’t get vaccinated for medical or religious reasons.

Nevertheless, the survey results signal that employers don’t view vaccines as a magic bullet that will quickly end the still-raging pandemic. Nearly half of respondents said their companies have extended work from home until the summer.

To contact the reporter on this story: Robert Iafolla in Washington at riafolla@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Martha Mueller Neff at mmuellerneff@bloomberglaw.com; Jay-Anne B. Casuga at jcasuga@bloomberglaw.com

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