Establishing Your Corporate Vaccination Policy

corporate vaccination policy

COVID-19 vaccines have become a major element in corporate return-to-work strategies. The need for companies to protect the health and safety of their workforce, their customers and their vendors is paramount. Keeping employees safe isn’t just the right thing to do -- it’s also good for business – after all, the healthier our teams are, the more productive we can be. We’re joined today by Megan Mitchell, a Senior Communications Consultant for IRI Consultants, and here, she explains:

  • The need for corporate vaccination policies;
  • The legality of vaccination mandates;
  • The components that should be found in any corporate vaccination policy; and
  • The best way to communicate your vaccination policy!

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The Legality of Mandated Vaccination

  • When it comes to the question of whether or not employers can mandate vaccination policies, the answer is yes.
    • Both federal and state employment laws allow private companies to mandate a vaccination policy.
    • This has been the case for many years, but may have not been as relevant until now, depending on the industry.
  • When it comes to the COVID vaccine, the question many employers had was not whether they could mandate it in general, it was whether they could mandate it under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA).


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An Obligation To Protect Workers

  • As an employer, having a policy that clearly states your position on vaccination, one that sets the expectations for employees, is helpful to all.
  • The decision to implement a corporate vaccination policy is one that is complicated and many factors may play a role in it, including:
    • Current vaccination rate
    • The reasons why some employees choose to vaccinate and others do not
      • To better understand these reasons, you may wish to engage your team to explore their thoughts on vaccination
    • Potential repurcussions
      • If a mandatory vaccination policy were to be put into place, what fallout might your company experience, talent-wise, and could your company withstand it?

Vaccination Policy ≠ Mandatory Vaccination

  • Vaccination policies are intended to provide clarity to the workforce in a complicated time.
  • With the amount of guidance and information coming out of the CDC and FDA, a vaccination policy at an individual's place of employment helps to simplify the overwhelming amount of information into a digestible and actionable plan to help people feel safe and productive at work.
  • The vaccination process will also continue to evolve with possible booster shots on the horizon and having a vaccination policy in place now will help employees know what to expect moving forward as the world continues to overcome COVID-19 and all of the emerging variants. 
  • Creating a comfort level for your employees when it comes to protecting them from COVID-19 or any other disease that may arise in the future will go a long way in ensuring their ability to be happy and productive at work.
  • The presence of a vaccination policy does not automatically mean that mandatory vaccination is in place.  
    • Companies may offer alternatives such as regular COVID tests or a move to a full-time remote position if you choose not to receive the vaccine, allowing for flexibility for both the company and the employee.

Building A Comprehensive Vaccination Policy

  • When it comes to building a corporate vaccination policy, many people should be involved in its creation. 
    • This policy will touch the organization as a while, so having input from all different departments and job descriptions can be helpful to creating the most universal and inclusive policy possible.
    • The legal team should co-lead this drafting process along with HR, Communications, and other leaders from different areas within the organization.
    • If your organization has an employee health department, they would likely be the ones to administer, monitor, and track vaccinations, so undeniably they would also be essential assets to the vaccination policy effort.
  • The structure of the vaccination policy should include the following components:
    • What the policy entails
      • Will vaccination be mantatory? Will testing be required? Will a  remote work option be offered, and if so, for what positions?
    • Who it applies to, and how it will be applied
      • Employees
        • Full-time?
        • Part-time?
        • Remote?
        • Contractors?
        • Vendors?
        • Salespeople?
        • Visitors?
        • Customers?
        • Volunteers?
    • When it goes into effect
      • There may be different dates for different types of people (new hires vs. existing employees, etc.)
      • The exact timeframe that the policy applies to each group should be explained clearly.
    • What qualifies as an exemption and the exemption application process
      • Under the law, people can be exempt for medical and religious reasons.There can also be deferrals for expectant mothers or for mothers with newborns.
      • Employees should be aware of if they are exempt and how to apply for that exemption if they wish to be.
    • The consequences of policy non-compliance
      • This is a very important aspect of the policy.
      • Who is going to be in charge of enforcement?
      • What kind of outcomes could there be for the employee who does not comply?
    • Vaccination guidance
      • How can employees schedule an appointment?
      • Can they take work hours to receive their vaccination?
      • Will you as an employer, pay for their time to get vaccinated?
      • Will you grant PTO or administrative/sick leave if they experience side effects from the vaccine?
      • Corporate vaccination policies are a hot topic with unions right now. Offering PTO, extra vacation days, and other incentives for employees to be vaccinated are good ways to keep union members, and the unions themselves, happy.
  • It’s suggested that a single vaccination policy apply to the company as a whole, rather than crafting different policies for different workgroups. 
  • In the short term, it makes sense to keep your COVID-19 vaccination policy separate from any other vaccination/medical policies already in place, due to the fact that the COVID-19 vaccination policy is likely to evolve over time.
  • This fluidity is due to the nature of the virus, so someone on your team should be responsible for staying on top of the CDC or FDA updates.

Remote Workers

  • Different companies have chosen to handle the topic of remote workers in different ways.
  • In the case that an employee works remotely and would under no circumstance be expected to show up to the office, companies may be willing to grant an exemption or a deferral.
  • If there is any situation that could arise in which the remote employee might need to physically be at the office, they will likely be mandated to comply with the corporate vaccination policy.

Communication Of Your Vaccination Policy

  • Internal communication of your policy is critical!
    • When first announcing your policy, you should have as much information as possible to present to employees.
    • There is a lot of anxiety surrounding COVID-19 and vaccinations, so the more employee questions you can answer, the better they will feel about their concerns.
    • A robust FAQ document and maybe even a town hall-like meeting would be extremely helpful in communicating your plan.
  • There are circumstances where external communication of your policy may be advised as well: 
    • If there is a brick and mortar element of your business and you are expecting customers and visitors to follow your policy, then it must be communicated externally before they enter.
    • If you are a healthcare provider or any other type of business that values your customers feeling at ease when coming into your place of work, external communication is also a great idea.

IRI’s Vaccine Policy Guide & More

  • Ms. Mitchell and IRI have been working with organizations as they develop their corporate vaccination policies and she has been able to see all different kinds of strategies deployed in regard to communication and enforcement of these policies.
  • IRI also recently released a Vaccine Policy Guide that helps companies not only understand where to begin, but also how to draft and deploy their very own vaccination policy.

Megan Mitchell Background


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