It's been a tough year for businesses due to the impact of Covid-19. Thankfully, the Covid-19 vaccine has been administered, and vaccinations have finally begun.
With the Covid-19 vaccinations starting, employers are faced with one issue: Can employers impose a forced vaccination policy on their workers?
For many employees, it will be a choice. For others, it might be a requirement.
The Covid-19 vaccine is said to be available to most Americans by summer 2021 at the earliest.
The coming months may see a serious debate over whether businesses, including hospitals and care facilities, should require employees to be vaccinated.
Some companies are said to be concerned about the liability issues and health safety of their employees.
A majority have already decided to make the Covid-19 vaccination mandatory if employees want to continue working.
However, performing forced vaccinations towards employees raises several issues that will need thorough understanding before implementation. Employers will soon have to consider how to communicate with their workforces about the vaccine and decide whether forced vaccinations are required as part of their duty.
Can Employers Force You to Take a Vaccine?
Most employers will want to encourage employees to be vaccinated and may even look to incentivize them or pay for the vaccine.
Offering incentives for employees if organizations were to force vaccination could be more effective. Giving employees enough time and with no penalty would positively turn things around.
Here's a tip: Employers who are keen for their staff to get forced vaccination should write a non-contractual policy outlining the benefits of getting the vaccine and the arrangements laid out clearly for their staff to be vaccinated. Those who refuse the forced vaccination could be met privately to explain the benefits again.
Furthermore, a recent update from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission confirms that employers can mandate that you take the Covid-19 vaccine. Unless you have underlying health conditions, are pregnant, have a religious belief, or a disability that would prohibit you from taking the Covid-19 vaccine.
Employers have a legal duty to provide a safe and healthy workplace. So yes, they generally have the right to require employees to get the Covid-19 vaccinations - with some exceptions.
What happens if you do not comply with the forced vaccination?
There are lively debates among public health authorities and academics about the effectiveness of forced vaccination.
Businesses could decide to take indirect measures to imply forced vaccination to their employees. Those who refuse to do so could be denied entry to certain premises of the company or roles. At the same time, employers may take disciplinary actions if an employee repeatedly refuses to take the Covid-19 vaccine.
Since employment in the U.S. is at-will, employers can fire an employee for any reason if it does not have to deal with an employee's race or religion.
Private businesses have all it takes to protect their health and safety standards and legally fire anyone who violates any rules set (including not taking vaccines as required).
Employers from Which Industries Are Likely to Impose Forced Vaccination?
Industries that have been severely affected this year due to the pandemic and government-mandated lockdowns are likely to impose forced vaccination.
A vaccine promises employers a return to some form of normal, which is desperately needed as businesses look to recover. Employers, particularly in these industries, have shown eagerness to get their employees vaccinated, especially those better known as "essential workers."
- Food and beverage manufacturing
- Factory floors
- Airlines and Travel
- Oil and Gas
- Leisure Facilities
Someone as simple as grocery store workers may have to undergo forced vaccination by their employers. Because they get exposed to many people and have the chance to get infected by anyone they talk to.
Some experts also think that forced vaccination can be directed towards customers as well. By barring entry to those without proof of immunization, just as business owners have the right to bar shirtless and shoeless customers from entering their premises.
Which Priority Groups Should Get the Covid-19 Vaccination?
The eventual aim is that as many people as possible over the age of 16 should be vaccinated.
But as of now, vaccines are being distributed to the most vulnerable.
The first distribution is prioritizing groups most vulnerable to severe outcomes like hospitalization and death, such as the elderly. The next most important group that should be getting the Covid-19 vaccine are those who are most susceptible to spread the virus. They are the frontline health and social care workers.
The next focus would be on those aged 18-64 with medical conditions, putting them in a higher risk group. The following category will be those who are essential to education and who face disease exposure.
Those in occupations essential to society should very well be vaccinated too. And finally, anyone aged 18 – 54 who did not have access to the vaccine in prior phases should consider getting it.
How Does the Future Look Like After Forced Vaccination?
This is the future of what the experts predicted post-vaccination: Any public places you go, for example, attending a baseball game, going to work, or hopping on a train, you may have to present proof that you have been vaccinated to be cleared to enter.
The health policy experts also envisioned that governments or employers could carry out forced vaccination mandates. It is an employer's interest to make sure their workplace is protected, and that the virus does not spread among their employees.
So, can you be forced to take a vaccine?
It depends. Forced vaccination or not, know that rules are implemented to keep everyone as safe as possible. The Covid-19 vaccine will serve as an insurance policy against continued health and economic shock from the pandemic in all scenarios.
In the same way as the events of 2020 could not have been predicted, we can expect changes in 2021 to implement a forced vaccination.
Till then, stay safe.
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