With the delta variant of the coronavirus on the rise, employers are scrambling to ensure their work environment is safe for all. That means reviewing or perhaps revamping the vaccination policy you put into place six months ago. The initial COVID-19 outbreak was hard enough to manage; now employers may need to get even more creative in trying to balance worker safety while respecting employees’ choices on whether to get vaccinated.
I recently fielded this question that came into the HR Knowledge Center: “Can employers require vaccination for only certain groups of employees?” I’ll be honest: My first thought was “Why would you do that?” It’s hard enough to get staff in the building, and this approach would only make it harder. As I explained to the caller, the answer to the question is complicated.
I could hear the disappointment on the other end of the phone—that sigh that said, “Please tell me yes or no, so I can tell my boss!” Have you been there? We all have! As I have instructed SHRM members in the past, an employer may have different rules for different groups of employees. However, there are some factors to consider when determining whether to do this.
To start, you will need to evaluate why a mandate for certain positions and not others would be appropriate. Does it make sense? Can you defend the decision? The employer has the burden of proof to demonstrate that mandating the vaccine for only part of the workforce is job-related and consistent with business necessity.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Is the ability to social distance at one location different than another (e.g., office space versus factory floor)?
- Do employees work in shared spaces or individual offices?
- Does the position require customer- or client-facing in-person contact?
- Is the employee considered an essential worker?
- Are your competitors requiring employees to be vaccinated?
- How does this impact your customers or clients?
Employer vaccination mandates are popping up all over, and each employer will need to consider the best approach for its business needs.
Staying up-to-date with vaccination regulations, guidance and practices can be time-consuming. Let SHRM be your one-stop shop to keep you informed and help you make confident decisions regarding the workplace.
If you want to know more about vaccinations 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. We receive questions from HR professionals on a wide range of topics ranging from COVID-19 to termination.
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