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Vaccination Management for Employers
By Jennifer Austin, Director, Marketing and Product Development

The Alliance and Business Health Care Group (BHCG) hosted a webinar with several content experts to discuss employee communication strategies regarding COVID-19 vaccination. This is a condensed recap focusing specifically on how to encourage vaccination, what options employers have for workplace vaccination, and best practices.

How to Encourage Vaccination

Employers can encourage vaccination among their employees using three methods:

Educate: Utilize trusted messengers (health care providers, DHS/CDC, company management), use multiple communication channels, and account for differential reading levels and languages.

Reduce Barriers: Support paid leave to allow employees to get vaccinated or for adverse side effects, host employer-sponsored vaccine clinics.

Offer Incentives: Offering a financial incentive can reduce unvaccinated workers by 30%.

The CDC has a great toolkit to help employers mitigate vaccine hesitancy within their workforces; it’s written in plain language and contains newsletters and posters that are available in multiple languages.

Employer Options for Workplace Vaccination

In addition to encouraging use, employers should think about what kind of program they’ll offer, which may differ based on workplace.

Compulsory vaccination programs: Requires the vaccine and best protects the workplace.

Positives:
- Reduces cost of absences, lost productivity, and long-run medical care.
- Better allows employers to (stay) open.
- Defends against civil liability
- Protects against enforcement action

Downsides:
- Significant administrative undertaking  
- Potential employer liability related to vaccine
- Navigating distrust of the vaccine in the workplace
- Need to develop an exemption process and consider accommodations
- Disciplining and/or terminating employees for noncompliance

Industries that might consider this option would have high levels of contact between employees and customers, frequent and close-proximity contact between employees, and businesses that depend on a high level of comfort for patronizing customers.

Employers with a union presence or who have less “high-risk” work environments would not consider a compulsory vaccine program.

Employer-Encouraged vaccination programs: This middle-of-the-road method is a popular choice for employers.

Positives:
- Administrative ease
- Higher employee morale and retention rates
- Less liability risk for discrimination claims

Downsides:
- Lower compliance than a compulsory program
- Widespread uncertainty and disinformation surrounding vaccines
- Cost of incentives
- Potential that incentives are deemed coercive and/or discriminatory.

Employers who might consider this program do not require close contact between employees but wants to return to “normal” work arrangements as soon as possible.

Voluntary vaccination programs: Does not encourage or incentivize vaccination and negates some legal risks.

Positives:
- Avoids certain legal risks
- Low administrative costs
- Less practical difficulties (obtaining proof of vaccination forms, etc.)

Downsides:
- Potential for a case to be made the employer is not creating a safe work environment (OSHA, Tort, or Workers’ Compensation claims)
- Business implications by not creating safe space for customers
- Diminished employee morale and retention from employees that want vaccine

Best Practices:

When it comes to vaccination policy for employers, the best strategy depends upon an employer’s industry, the nature of their operations, and the overall size of their workplace. No matter what stance an employer takes on vaccination policy, here’s some general rules:

- Lead by example: have your C-suite get vaccinated
- Educate and empower your employees using reliable information from trusted educational resources
- Be transparent with your workforce and be prepared to answer questions
- Have a plan and policy regarding vaccination, and consider creating a COVID-19 task force that meets regularly
- Maintain social distancing and other safety precautions; mitigation strategies are still critical during vaccine rollout.

View this event’s blog recap for more detailed information and resources.

Jennifer joined The Alliance in 2019 and manages marketing, brand strategy, paid advertising, publication relations, social media, and website development.

Prior to The Alliance, Jennifer was responsible for marketing strategy at hospitals and health systems in Madison and Chicago, including Advocate Healthcare (now Advocate Aurora Health), Augusta University Health, and HCA Healthcare.

 
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