Vexed about Vax? Vaccine Mandate Tips for Staffing and Recruiting Firms

Vaccine mandates are being rolled out across the country. With the introduction of the federal Path Out of The Pandemic COVID-19 Action Plan, all federal workers and companies with more than 100 employees will be required to either have vaccinated staff or weekly testing procedures. A new OSHA emergency temporary standard (ETS) to give guidance to employers on the details has not yet been issued.

Many employers are likely to have a bias towards vaccinated workers to avoid the time and expense associated with the weekly testing that will be required of unvaccinated workers. Staffing and recruiting firms need to be ready for these changes. Here are our top tips for helping your clients navigate the coming vaccine mandates and potential impact to the talent recruitment processes.

Be Transparent

Whatever vaccine-related policies you choose to adopt, transparent communication about expectations is key. Make sure prospective candidates are fully aware of the company’s vaccination requirements by outlining your policies before they accept a position. If you have a policy in which some workers are required to be vaccinated, and others are not, like fully remote workers, the rules and rationales should be made clear. Make sure to note that reasonable accommodations will be provided for those with health and religious exemptions.

You can also note your vaccine requirements when posting job applications: many candidates who are hesitant about the recent mandates likely won’t apply. Other candidates might willingly share their vaccination status knowing this may offer a competitive advantage over candidates who are unvaccinated or have an unknown status.

Don’t Ask Candidates About Vaccination Status

If you have a vaccine mandate in place, you will want to know if incoming employees will need special accommodations. However, it is illegal both under federal and state laws to discriminate against a candidate concerning medical conditions. If you do ask candidates about their vaccination status, the decision whether or not to hire them should not be based on that status alone. If a candidate is not hired because they refuse to receive the vaccine or won’t agree to weekly testing procedures, they may decide to take legal action. 

If possible, it is better to not ask at all. Instead, emphasize company policies about vaccine mandates to ensure that all candidates understand the expectations of the role.

Tracking Vaccination Status

After the hiring process, you may ask for proof of vaccination as you would for your existing workforce. Some employees may be required to receive vaccine boosters shots and strain-specific vaccines to maintain their status as fully vaccinated. As a result, you should gather as much information as possible about each employee’s vaccination status. You’ll need to know the vaccine type, brand, date of the first and second shot (if necessary), and maintain a copy of vaccination records. 

To ensure privacy, any information gathered from employees must be confidential, and the use and access to that information should be limited and strictly controlled in compliance with HIPAA rules and regulations. Make sure you are also aware of any state laws, like the California Consumer Privacy Act, that may limit what data you can collect from employees.

Keep Policies Updated

COVID-19 regulations continue to change rapidly at the federal, state, and local levels. As conditions continue to evolve, businesses need to anticipate future changes that may impact the business reasons for needing to implement a vaccination policy.

Businesses should stay updated on local regulations, and stay nimble when planning any vaccine mandates. Policies and practices should be adaptable to future changes so that they continue to appropriately meet the needs of your business and your employees. You should be evaluating the impact of policies by tracking rates of vaccinations, exemptions, employee turnover and satisfaction, along with measuring the administrative resources expended. Adaptable policies can help employers refine procedures and communications in ways that improve vaccination rates and employee satisfaction.

Vaccination Policies that Put Workers First

Employers should work to make receiving a vaccine as easy, accessible, and stress-free as possible for their employees. In many states, employers must grant paid time off for employees to get vaccinated and recover from any side effects. Some organizations are even opting to work with local public health authorities to provide vaccinations at the workplace to reduce the time and inconveniences that may have previously prevented employees from getting vaccinated. For prospective hires, employers should communicate the efforts they are taking to facilitate vaccinations, and can even provide information on the benefits and safety of vaccinations through resources from the CDC and other public health organizations.

Employers may even attract talent, retain current employees, and win over customers by promoting strong vaccine policies. A recent survey found that 57% of workers are in “burnout mode,” pandemic-related stresses being cited among the most common reasons. For some employees, especially those with underlying health conditions putting them at greater risk, working for an employer with a strong COVID-19 vaccination strategy can be highly valued.

Determining the right approach for your organization can be difficult and requires careful consideration. Read our blog on COVID-19 vaccine requirements in the workplace for more information on rolling out vaccine mandates.

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