HR Implications of the COVID-19 Vaccine

By Stormy McBride On March 3, 2021 In LegalCommunityHealth and Well-beingCOVID-19COVID

Picture of someone getting a COVID shot

Have you thought about the impact the vaccine will have on your human resources (HR)?

Getting ahead of the COVID-19 vaccination rollout with a policy grounded in consistency, necessity and privacy is the way to start. Last week, Jacqueline Breslin, Director of HR and Compliance Services at TriNet, took us on a deep dive into what businesses need to know to keep up with the changing HR landscape in 2021 and beyond.

“Get ready now so when the vaccine is widely available, you’re not making a decision in the heat of the moment because that is not when our best business decisions are made.” – Jacqueline Breslin, Director of HR and Compliance Services at TriNet

The vaccine is giving us all hope to fight the global health crisis and your focus should be on supporting employees as a next step to a healthier and safer workplace. First you should…

  • Evaluate what kind of policy is best for your business
    • Examine whether a mandatory or strongly encouraged policy is right for your organization
  • Consider what support to offer to your employees

The policy should include:

  • the company’s position on the vaccine
  • why mandatory or strongly encouraged was adopted
  • exactly what to do and who to speak to about accommodations
  • and reinforcement of the confidentiality of employee’s choices

Next, make sure to narrow down the proof of the vaccine to only the essential information (name, dates, vaccine confirmation). Keep in mind to tread lightly around the “at will” employee/employer relationship if the vaccine is refused.

This is a moment to have an interactive conversation. Be empathetic and understand the employee’s point of view. There are many reasons an individual would refuse the vaccine.

“Seek legal counsel. This topic is fluid, there are a lot of questions, and employee rights will be important as we learn more about what employers can and can’t do.” – Jacqueline Breslin, Director of HR and Compliance Services at TriNet

This is a polarizing topic and you should be prepared for some employees to be upset by the adopted policy.

  • Think about how to manage and outline a process to address accommodation requests as outlined by the EEOC.
  • Make it clear to employees how to ask for an accommodation due to medical necessity.
    • In some cases, getting the vaccine would be a risk to their health, religious reasons, etc.

“Requesting proof that an employee has been vaccinated against COVID-19 should not typically provide you with any information about an employee’s disability therefore it is not a disability inquiry and is ok to ask.” – Jacqueline Breslin, Director of HR and Compliance Services at TriNet

Lastly, most businesses are unsure about offering an incentive to increase adoption of the COVID-19 vaccine. But, among employees, the most popular incentives are reimbursement, cash incentives, and paid time off.

Jacqueline cautions to think through your policy, especially if you have hourly employees – make sure you are complying with wage and hour laws and paying them appropriately.

“This is an evolving topic. Take it step by step, make independent decisions and then be ready to change those decisions as things evolve on this topic.” – Jacqueline Breslin, Director of HR and Compliance Services at TriNet

Want more? Click HERE to watch the full interview on the HR Implications of the COVID-19 Vaccine with Jacqueline Breslin. It’s juicy!

Also, here is an additional resource for you to check out.

If you are in need of a full time HR resource dedicated to you and your business, drop us an email at [email protected]. Through the GCUC Community we have negotiated up to 55% off executive services like this.