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Vaccine and HR Issues Slowly Creep into Workplaces
March 8, 2021
Human Resources Likely to Face Complications from Vaccine Rollout
The arrival and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine has given society plenty of reasons to be optimistic that the pandemic will end and life will return to some sort of normalcy in 2021.
COVID-19 has hurt businesses and challenged the economy to adapt to remote work while quickly implementing policies to help slow the spread of the virus. Now that a vaccine has arrived, questions have emerged about whether a company can prevent an employee from returning to work for refusing a vaccination or adhering to COVID-19 protocols.
As the vaccine rollout continues across North America, businesses should start to prepare for HR complications, including refusals to vaccinate, denials for proof of vaccination, and what HR can and can’t do in regard to vaccinating a large workforce.
Learn from History - COVID-19 Vaccination Policies
While COVID-19 is unknown territory for many businesses, there are examples from the past that can give insight into whether an employer can mandate and “force” their staff to get vaccinated.
One litigious example occurred in 2006, where a hospital worker refused an influenza vaccination that was part of an effort to protect patients and staff. The employer responded by forcing an unpaid leave of absence on the worker, gaining the attention of the nurse's union and creating friction between employer and union. Ultimately, the hospital’s decision was upheld by third-party arbitrators in court, as the employer made the case that the vaccination was necessary due to the nature of work.
Now with the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccination, more workplaces should expect to experience similar situations. However, the challenge is that employers will need to give substantial reason to mandate a vaccine, with clear policies and reasoning backed by fact and science outlined in their human resource policies.
If a workplace terminates an employee for refusing the vaccine, it could open up wrongful dismissal issues and cost the employer thousands. Significant legal challenges could arise if an employer can’t support the necessity of the vaccine.
Accommodations for Those who Refuse the COVID-19 Vaccination
Vaccine mandates will vary greatly between workplaces, and employers might need to make accommodations if an employee refuses to be vaccinated.
Grocers, restaurants, healthcare facilities, and any business interacting with the general public will need to outline in great detail why they are implementing a vaccine mandate, along with how it will protect their staff. As employers have a duty of care obligation to their staff, a vaccine mandate could potentially hold up in court against a worker who is laid off for refusing to vaccinate.
Employers are Thinking of Creative Ways to Encourage Their Workforces to Get Vaccinated
Of course, forcing people to be vaccinated is a complicated issue, and many governments have already decided against such measures. Instead, some governments have opted to “strongly encourage” healthcare workers, including doctors and nurses and those in long-term-care homes. Some employers have taken a different approach, offering their workforces extra pay to get vaccinated.
Some grocery store chains and airlines are planning on offering their staff a monetary incentive to get vaccinated, possibly circumventing some of the challenging HR issues that could arise should an employer be unable to accommodate someone who refuses. The logic is that this could override some of the complicated opinions and perspectives and ultimately encourage their workers to step up, roll up their sleeves, and receive the vaccination.
Navigate Complicated HR Challenges with ISB Global Services
The arrival of a vaccine is great news for businesses that can’t opt for remote work. However, HR will be expected to navigate the complicated issues and opinions regarding the vaccination of a workforce. HR managers should plan accordingly, updating their COVID-19 policies and beginning to outline the specifics as to why their workforce will need to be vaccinated.
ISB can help any company, regardless of its size, navigate the many HR challenges expected to accompany the arrival of the vaccine. Our solutions for HR managers include validating candidates’ identities to performing full online background check services, criminal record checks, and verifying education. We can assist with the sudden need for enhanced screening and hiring as well.
ISB is highly experienced in helping HR managers screen large numbers of candidates to ensure the quality of workforces. Contact us directly to learn more about our suite of HR-related solutions and help your business take the next step into remote recruiting.