Some employers wait for final legal outcomes before implementing vaccine mandates

As OSHA’s emergency vaccinate-or-test mandate faces legal challenges, a significant percentage of employers are taking a wait-and-see approach.
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Francis Scialabba

· 3 min read

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Though nearly half of US employers believe Covid-19 vaccine mandates could help recruit and retain employees, almost one-third of employers say they will only require employees to get vaccinated if courts uphold OSHA’s shot-or-test mandate.

That’s according to survey data from Willis Towers Watson, a worldwide advisory, broking, and solutions company. Over 543 employers that collectively employ 5.2 million people participated in the survey.

The only thing certain is uncertainty. The survey results suggest two possible reasons for continuing resistance to vaccine mandates in the private sector: fear of losing talent and fatigue over seemingly endless updates to Covid policies.

Thirty-one percent of employers who are considering implementing a vaccine mandate are very concerned that mandates could contribute to employees leaving their organizations, according to the survey. In reality, this may not be a cause for concern: The same survey found that only 3% of employers who have instituted mandates said the policy was a factor that contributed to “many” employees leaving. Nearly half of employers surveyed, however, said their vaccine requirement was a factor for “a few” employees leaving.

A second cause for concern: the dread of having to issue, then revise yet another workplace Covid policy. HR and employees alike are fatigued by the constant changes to workplace policies in response to a virus that keeps mutating. Some employers may only want to implement a mandate that will last.

The federal mandate, which would require employers with 100 or more employees to verify workers are vaccinated against Covid-19 or submit to at-least-weekly testing, faces numerous legal challenges, including questioning if the order meets the “grave danger” standard to fall within OSHA’s legal jurisdiction and if it’s consistent with past departmental guidance. On Monday a federal judge partially blocked the White House’s efforts to roll out a vaccine mandate for certain health care workers in 10 states. On Tuesday, another federal judge issued a preliminary injunction against the mandate for government contractors and subcontractors in three additional states.

Bottom line: This survey was conducted before the new Covid-19 variant Omicron entered the chat. Scientists are rushing to see how the strain compares to past variants like Delta. Employers can expect to receive their first insights into Omicron, possibly including how transmissible the strain is and if current vaccinations are effective at combating infections, in about two weeks. —SV

Do you work in HR or have information about your HR department we should know? Contact Susanna Vogel via the encrypted messaging apps Signal and Telegram (@SusannaVogel) or simply email [email protected].

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