Preparing your Workforce for Vaccine Requirements
UPDATED: SEPTEMBER 13, 2021
Also available for Small Businesses.
This Guide was developed by the Health Action Alliance, a unique partnership between leading business, communications and public health organizations to strengthen and accelerate the business community’s response to COVID-19 and help rebuild public health.
For more information, please visit healthaction.org.
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Special thanks to the following organizations that provided additional content for this resource:
COVID Collaborative, National Safety Council
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed deep vulnerabilities in our nation’s public health infrastructure. We’ve lost lives, intensified inequities and eroded years of progress across our economy. Getting back to our lives—back to seeing our loved ones, back to school and back to business—requires that we turn the tide against COVID-19 and create a stronger, healthier future for all of us. Vaccines, highly effective and safe, offer hope and protection that can help our country and our economy rebuild and recover.
We’re on our way, but significant challenges remain, including the emergence of a highly transmissible Delta variant that’s driving a new wave of infections across the country. Public health officials warn that we must encourage many more Americans to get vaccinated, including more than 80 million people in the United States who are currently eligible for vaccines but remain unvaccinated and at real risk.
On September 9, 2021, the Biden administration announced a new plan that obligates all employers with more than 100 workers to require vaccination or weekly testing for COVID-19. Now that the question of whether to require vaccinations has been settled, employers face a lost list of questions about how to do it.
The Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) plans to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard implementing the new requirement in the coming weeks. Fortunately, there are now numerous examples of companies that have implemented vaccine mandates successfully; the roadmap is already in place. Employers that have not already begun laying the groundwork for vaccine requirements will need to act swiftly. Employee communication and engagement strategies, stakeholder feedback coupled with change management can do much to maintain morale and avert staff losses.
This guide is designed to help you get started.
A fully vaccinated workforce creates the safest possible workplace environment for employees and customers. If a vaccination requirement is not an option for your business, we recommend these steps:
Employers are encouraged to:
As you consider how to implement your company’s COVID-19 vaccination policy and workplace safety protocols, you should be guided by trust and empathy, meaningful input from workers representing communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, the specific values of your company, and needs of your community.
This Quick Start Guide provides employers with recommended actions, key policy considerations and tools you can use to:
Establish a COVID-19 vaccination policy and plan.
Educate employees, workers and other stakeholders about the importance, efficacy and safety of COVID-19 vaccination, and encourage them to get vaccinated.
Accelerate the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and vaccination efforts in the communities you serve, and engage with local public health departments to support vaccination efforts.
All employers are encouraged to develop a COVID-19 vaccination policy and workplace safety protocol that reflects a careful review of the latest public health, legal and safety considerations. As employers weigh these options, they should prioritize the health and safety of workers and customers and consider local community vaccination rates and guidance from local public health officials. They should also plan to regularly evaluate and update policies and protocols as the pandemic and federal, state and local guidance evolve.
A fully vaccinated workforce creates the safest possible workplace environment for employees and customers. All people in the United States ages 12 and older are now eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines. Vaccines are free and widely available at more than 80,000 locations across the country, including over 40,000 retail pharmacies. Ninety percent of Americans live within five miles of a vaccine site.
Against the backdrop of a rapidly surging Delta variant, employers should develop a plan to remove barriers to vaccination and make it easier for employees and workers to get vaccinated at their earliest opportunity. Existing plans and policies may need to be updated to reflect the latest guidance from federal health officials about booster shots, federal requirements for companies of 100+ workers, and new recommendations that employers offer paid time off and other support to working parents who want to vaccinate eligible children against COVID-19.
Building your company’s COVID-19 Vaccination Policy and Workplace Safety Protocol will require navigating technical, logistical, organizational and communications challenges. Identify a leader within your company who’s adept at responding to employee, worker and stakeholder questions, and is well-positioned to coordinate with management, human resources, employee resource groups, workers and labor representatives, as appropriate. Leading your company’s COVID-19 vaccine planning is a complex and time-consuming assignment, so be sure to empower a leader who has the authority, trust, empathy, communication skills and capacity to serve in this role.
For larger companies, you may want to establish a COVID-19 vaccine task force with representation from each of the key departments. Input from a racially and ethnically diverse cross section of your company can help ensure you understand specific needs and questions within communities that have been hit hardest by the virus.
As you develop or refine your plan, make sure you proactively engage leaders of your company’s employee resource or affinity groups and other employee populations that may have unique questions, concerns or access needs. This isn’t about convincing workers to trust the vaccine; it’s about understanding their perspectives and concerns, and working together to identify solutions. Because some demographic groups face barriers to vaccines, those employees may be negatively and disproportionately impacted by a vaccination requirement. Below are strategies you may consider:
On September 9, 2021, the Biden administration announced a new plan that obligates all employers with more than 100 workers to require vaccination or weekly testing for COVID-19. A fully vaccinated workforce creates the safest possible workplace environment for employees and customers. Hundreds of major companies have announced policies to require vaccinations for all or part of their workforce, adding to the millions of federal workers and contractors now required to show proof of vaccination. If a vaccination requirement is not an option for your business, we recommend these steps:
We’ve created an interactive Decision Tool with the latest health, legal and safety considerations to help guide your planning and decision-making. Our recommendations are based on public health guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), safety guidance offered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), legal considerations established by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and additional feedback from COVID Collaborative and the National Safety Council.
Here are some of the key questions your company’s policy should address:
Employers should also consult their legal counsel and review state and local laws before making any decisions about workplace policies related to the pandemic.
Research has shown additional ways employers can support or incentivize workers to get vaccinated.
As of mid-September 2021, there are still 80 million Americans who are eligible to get vaccinated but remain unvaccinated and at real risk. As an employer, the most important thing you can do is communicate with your employees, workers and customers about the benefits and safety of COVID-19 vaccines and encourage them to get vaccinated. Your outreach can also help counter misinformation about vaccines.
Vaccines save lives. They also require trust, transparency and accountability. The factors that influence a person’s decision to get vaccinated are nuanced and affected by how they see and experience the world. Science and facts aren’t the only predictors of human behavior. People make vaccine decisions based on social norms, their perceptions of how others will view their decision, feedback from people they trust, their perceptions of risk, the consistency of messages and the convenience of getting vaccinated.
Fortunately, new research suggests that Americans trust their employers more than they trust government leaders, community leaders and even religious leaders. That’s why it’s important you share trusted information from the CDC, FDA and other public health experts, as well as perspectives and encouragement from trusted community leaders to help your employees, workers, customers and other stakeholders make the best decisions for themselves and their families. And, you can listen and respond to their questions and needs, as well as dispel misinformation about company policies or vaccination issues that may arise.
All vaccine requirements, whether mandated by the federal government or initiated independently, need thoughtful planning and communication. To help you get started, we offer general communications guidance and a range of free tools and resources to help employers communicate about COVID-19 vaccine requirements to workers, customers and the media. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, so you should be prepared to customize outreach for groups with unique needs and questions.
Delivering and administering hundreds of millions of COVID-19 vaccinations and booster shots represents one the greatest communications, logistical and public health challenges in our country’s history. The private sector has unique expertise and resources that can help accelerate the vaccine response, save lives and contribute to a faster recovery.
There are many ways your company might support local public health officials and strengthen vaccine distribution in your community.
If you’d like to donate space, staff, or supplies to aid local vaccination efforts, your local public health department is the place to start. For those who are not already in contact with their local public health department, this outreach can serve as an introduction that helps to build a longer-term partnership focused on your company’s health, wellness and preparedness goals.
We’ve prepared tools, templates and communications resources to help you engage employees, workers, customers and other stakeholders:
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DISCLAIMER: Public health guidance on COVID-19 is constantly evolving. Health Action Alliance is committed to regularly updating our materials once we've engaged public health, business and communications experts about the implications of new guidance from the public health community and effective business strategies that align with public health goals.
Health Action Alliance is committed to the health and safety of employees and communities. You should speak with your doctor or healthcare provider about whether COVID-19 vaccines are right for you.
This Guide provides an overview of workplace issues related to COVID-19, and is not intended to be, and should not be construed as, legal, business, medical, scientific or any other advice for any particular situation. The content included herein is provided for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current developments as the subject matter is extremely fluid and may change daily.
This Guide contains links to third-party websites. Such links are only for the convenience of the reader, user or browser; the Health Action Alliance does not recommend or endorse the contents of the third-party sites.
Readers of this Guide should contact their attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter. No reader, user, or browser of this material should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information in this Guide without first seeking legal advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction. Only your individual attorney can provide assurances that the information contained herein – and your interpretation of it – is applicable or appropriate to your particular situation.