As an HR Knowledge Advisor, I speak with many members who are preparing to hire for the upcoming holiday season. A popular question I am asked is whether an employer can ask applicants if they have been vaccinated against COVID-19. The answer is yes. However, hiring managers and HR professionals should instruct applicants not to offer any information about why they may not have received the vaccine.
Employers may also require COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of employment. Employers that require vaccinations for their employees should be explicit about the requirement during the recruiting process and should notify applicants of the vaccine requirement as soon as possible. When advertising the open position, make it clear that vaccination against COVID-19 is a requirement of the job and that accommodations for disabilities and religious beliefs will be evaluated in compliance with the law. During my career supporting a health organization, I found it beneficial to do this early on rather than waiting until final interviews. Our applicants knew as soon as they applied through the job posting that all applicants had to be fully vaccinated prior to their start date.
Some employers may want to wait until the interview process to discuss any required vaccinations, but, in my opinion, this option is risky because discussions about vaccines can quickly result in the applicant revealing disability-related information. When it comes to interview questions, employers should ask applicants only vaccination questions that pertain to the job. Also, employers that do not ask employees if they have been vaccinated should not pose that question to applicants either.
If you want to know more about asking candidates their vaccination status or have other HR questions, we’d love to help! Give us a call or send an e-mail. We’re also available by chat. It’s one of the most valued benefits of SHRM membership! SHRM’s Ask an Advisor service is a member benefit through which SHRM’s HR Knowledge Advisors share guidance, real-life personal and professional experiences, and resources to assist members with their HR-related inquiries.