Federal vaccination requirements for businesses of 100 or more workers are intended to create safer workplace environments for employees and customers. They may also help make meaningful progress in achieving health equity — especially if employers take steps to engage disproportionately impacted communities in their policy planning. That’s because vaccines protect the very people who are most likely to experience the worst COVID-19 outcomes, significantly reducing the likelihood of hospitalization and death. Top officials at the American Civil Liberties Union have said that vaccine requirements are especially important for frontline workers and other people who are regularly exposed to the public in the course of their jobs.
Many companies were quick to require vaccines for their office employees, but didn’t extend those same requirements to retail workers, customer-facing employees, or others required to regularly interact with the public. The federal plan announced last week puts all employees at large companies, regardless of whether they do their job in an office or on an assembly line, on equal footing — which could improve health outcomes for everyone.
As employers consider workplace vaccine requirements, it’s important that they avoid actions that might inadvertently harm workers already disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. We’ve put together a list of key recommendations to help employers prioritize equity and access in vaccine policy planning.
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.
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