After years of planning, fundraising, and preparation, you managed to start a business. Among the many things you have to worry about as an entrepreneur, the pandemic only exacerbates your struggles. You’re ready to start hiring employees, but your main priority is keeping them safe. You’re aware of health and safety policies like regular sanitation, employee wellness checks, signage, social distancing, and providing staff with PPE to reduce the risk of exposure and spread.
Be that as it may, you’d like to do more. Perhaps implementing a company-mandated policy for vaccinations would work. If this is something you’re considering, there are a few things you need to know. Continue reading to learn more.
Is It Legal For Employers to Mandate COVID-19 Vaccinations?
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has stated that employers will have a right to require employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine to maintain their jobs. This permission is primarily provided to companies that feel a significant health and safety risk to employees, customers, or the general public. If your startup doesn’t fall in this category, it is best to encourage employees instead.
Incentivized Vaccine Policies
Not sure you want to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for employees? You do have other options. Many companies have decided to offer incentives for staff interested in obtaining the vaccine. These incentives can include additional compensation, paid time off, or cash bonuses. By eliminating some of the challenges employees would have to go through to get the vaccine, employers can encourage more people to go through the process. When selecting this route, it is essential to remember not to make incentives too large to prevent claims of coercion.
Developing A Policy
Whether you’re going to mandate vaccines or merely develop an incentive program to encourage employees to get vaccinated, you’ll need to put these policies in writing. Such information is ideal for protecting your startup and educating your staff. You’ll need to keep these documents on file, administer them to new hires during the onboarding process, and create signs to place in common areas. Don’t make the mistake of trying to write these policies and contracts on your own.
Work With An Attorney
Just as you would with a background check for employment and general policies for new hires, you need to consult an attorney. Although the rules and regulations surrounding COVID-19 vaccines in the workplace are relatively new, an attorney is educated enough to help you navigate the murky waters. They can ensure that you’re not overstepping your boundaries or violating any laws that could get you in legal trouble.
Employees With Religious Beliefs or Disabilities
Employers may have a right to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for employees, but there are some exemptions. Employees that state they have religious beliefs or disabilities that prevent them from obtaining the vaccine have a right to object. Your attorney can talk you through methods you can use to accommodate their needs. Solutions might include allowing them to work remotely, transitioning to a department that’s the least exposed to the general public, or assisting individuals with disabilities in getting to and from vaccination sites safely and affordably.
You want to be careful about how you proceed with this because they are protected by the American Disabilities Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Failure to comply could result in legal action that could be difficult for your startup to bounce back from.
Starting a business in the middle of a pandemic is challenging for a novice entrepreneur. It is your responsibility to ensure that you provide employees with a safe and decent environment to work. While a company-mandated COVID-19 vaccine policy may seem like the most effective solution, you must consider the pros and cons. Before making a final decision or hiring staff, talk with a legal representative to develop the safest policies to protect your business, employees, customers, and the communities you serve.
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