On the Vaccine Mandate Path, Start Where You Are

As we wait for guidance from OSHA on vaccination mandates, many companies are moving forward – a prudent course of action since we don’t think employers will be given much time to comply. Federal contractors were given only about 10 weeks from when the requirement was issued, and the typical timing for OSHA safety requirements is just 45 days.  

Your path to compliance will depend on where you are starting. While there are organizations with a vaccination rate of 80% or higher, there are others that have yet to reach 30%. A good goal is to get as many employees as possible vaccinated voluntarily before the mandate kicks in. You may have thought that a vaccination mandate would put an end to incentives and surcharges – but think again. These tactics may be the boost you need to increase the number vaccinated at your worksite. 

Incentives may be a good first step. Some employers have chosen simply to pay employees to get the vaccine, while others have opted for a raffle, with prizes such as  meal delivery, an iPad, or additional vacation time. Go bigger if you’ve got the budget!  Co-Star raffled off a Tesla, $10,000, and an all-inclusive trip for three employees and their guests to Barbados on a private plane. Leidos Inc. set aside $1 million to reward 10 randomly selected vaccinated workers a year’s pay. The key is to get creative and think about what might motivate your population. If you have employees in a part of the country where country music rules, raffle off tickets to a Luke Combs or Kelsea Ballerini concert. 

Consider a group goal to reinforce vaccinations. At the March of Dimes, leadership set a vaccination target and told employees that if they reached it, everyone would get a half-day off on Fridays for the month of August. While they didn’t hit their goal by August 1, they got there in time to enjoy two half-days before the summer’s end.    

Surcharges send a message. Delta Air Lines’ implementation of a premium surcharge for unvaccinated employees was widely publicized. That was not their first action to encourage vaccinations; they first provided paid time off and other incentives. Requiring a surcharge reinforces that those who are unvaccinated have a much higher chance of ending up in the hospital and incurring large medical bills. As with a tobacco-use surcharge, the costs associated with COVID care are the primary reason employers are implementing premium surcharges.  

Go cold turkey with the mandate. We recognize that incentives and surcharges aren’t for everyone – they increase costs and require additional administration. With the expected short compliance timeline implementing the mandate and testing may be all you can handle – and that’s okay. 

Communicate early and often. Regardless of how you choose to get there, factual and sincere communication is especially important. As an employer, you don’t want your workers, or your customers, to be at risk of contracting COVID-19. Be sure to convey to your employees that requiring vaccinations is about keeping everyone safe. You might even enlist a trusted local doctor or nurse to help you deliver information about COVID-19 and the vaccine. Most importantly start communicating now and set up a plan to communicate often.  

As you measure your company’s success with the vaccine mandate, don’t focus purely on the number or percentage vaccinated. Measure how many of your employees give you the thumbs up for doing it well. In these crazy times, showing that you know your people – and that you care about them – matters more than ever. 

 

Concerned about turnover?

For those that are facing greater employee resistance and are wary of losing workers – a word of encouragement. While it’s understandable to be concerned about turnover, there is a growing list of employers that did not see a significant loss of staff following a mandate. Houston Methodist Hospital was early to implement a mandate and they lost just 150 employees out of 27,000. More recently, New York mandated vaccination for all health workers and the percentage of hospital and nursing home workers with at least one vaccine dose quickly jumped from 75% to 92%. Once all mandates go into effect it will be hard for employees to decide to quit to avoid vaccination, since the next job they apply for will also (most likely) require it.  

Tracy Watts
by Tracy Watts

Senior Partner, National Leader for U.S. Health Policy

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