Insist or incentivize? Companies are deciding whether to make vaccines mandatory

Companies are now being forced to answer a question that was until recently mostly hypothetical. Should they require their employees to get a coronavirus vaccine, or incentivize them to get the shot?

Posted: Feb 22, 2021 1:24 PM

(CNN) -- Companies are now being forced to answer a question that was until recently mostly hypothetical. Should they require their employees to get a coronavirus vaccine, or incentivize them to get the shot?

British business is at the forefront of the debate. While vaccination programs are accelerating in many countries, Britain is among the most advanced. One in three adults have received their first vaccine shot, and the UK government confirmed on Monday that it hopes to offer every adult a first dose of the vaccine by July 31.

The vaccine question is vexing executives, who want to protect their workers and customers but avoid legal battles and accusations of discrimination against people who are not vaccinated. The UK government has said it will not issue "vaccine passports" that would clear people for work or travel, leaving companies to establish their own policies.

Barchester Healthcare, which builds hospitals and operates more than 200 nursing care homes in the United Kingdom, said it wants all staff who work with patients to be vaccinated.

"One option under consideration is that staff who refuse the vaccine on non-medical grounds will, by reason of their own decision, make themselves unavailable for work," the company said in a statement. "This is part of an ongoing dialogue we are having, we are constantly reviewing this as more information is available, and are very aware of concerns around possible discrimination which is in no way our intention."

Pimlico Plumbers, a service and maintenance company based in London, is considering a similar policy. The company said it wants to implement a "no jab, no job" rule for new hires, but a spokesperson told CNN Business that existing workers with a good reason for declining the vaccine will not be fired.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed plans on Monday for easing the strict lockdown in England, giving dates when hairdressers, pubs and restaurants may be allowed to reopen. As the economy opens up again, companies that require employees or new hires to receive the vaccine will be forced to navigate a legal minefield.

"There's nothing to stop employers from inserting those clauses into new contracts," said David Samuels, legal director at the global employment law firm Lewis Silkin. "But such clauses may later be subject to legal challenges."

Companies may also be exposing themselves to allegations of discrimination against people who have not been vaccinated. That category may include young people who have not yet been offered a shot, or people who should not be vaccinated for medical reasons.

"If an employee couldn't get hold of the vaccine, or there are medical reasons stopping them [from receiving a vaccine], then employers are at risk of discriminating against employees," Samuels said.

Labor unions and business groups are encouraging UK companies to avoid mandates.

The Confederation of British Industry, which says it speaks on behalf of 190,000 businesses, is opposed to mandatory vaccination for workers.

"Vaccinations are crucial step in our fight against Covid. Businesses are committed to doing all they can to inform and engage their employees on the benefits of the vaccine," the group said in a statement. "But the rollout program is ultimately a matter for government and health experts."

UNISON, a public sector trade union, also opposes mandates. Senior national social care officer Gavin Edwards said the union is focused on persuading workers to get the vaccine by providing clear and concise information and arranging for them to speak to colleagues who've already had their injections.

"Threats, whether over pay, work tasks or job opportunities will only put people's backs up and achieve the opposite result," said Edwards. "This is in none of our interests."

A global issue
US companies are also considering their options. Last month, the CEO of United Airlines said he could make vaccines mandatory for employees.

"I think the right thing to do is for United Airlines, and for other companies, to require the vaccines and to make them mandatory," Scott Kirby told investors on an earnings call. But he also suggested that the airline wouldn't act alone. "We need some others to show leadership," he added.

Other US CEOs appear to be open to the idea, even if they haven't said so in public.

Over 70% of current and recent CEOs of major companies signaled an openness to vaccine mandates, according to a December poll by the Yale Chief Executive Leadership Institute. The broad question did not specify whether the mandate would apply to all employees or just those who work in close proximity to customers and colleagues.

Legal experts say that US employers can mandate getting the shot. Whether they should is a different matter. Some jobs already have vaccination requirements. For instance, some health care workers are required to get flu shots.

Before CEOs make a decision on vaccines, Lewis Silkin's Samuels said they should make a case by case assessment.

"First consider who needs to be vaccinated to do their role and whether there are alternative measures to mitigate health and safety risks," he said, adding that vaccines mandates should "be a last resort."

With the vaccine rollout also picking up speed in the United States, many retailers and fast food outlets are offering incentives including gift cards to workers who get vaccinated. Aldi, Trader Joe's, Kroger, Starbucks, McDonald's, Target, Publix and Dollar General are all offering financial incentives such as paid time off to encourage employees to be vaccinated.

When deciding the right path, CEOs have to consider both workers and their business.

"The advice we've been giving to employers is to first ask why vaccination is right for their business and then, what impact mandating the vaccination could have on their employees," said Anne Sammon, an employment partner at Pinsent Masons.

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

Terre Haute
Cloudy
56° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 56°
Robinson
Cloudy
54° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 54°
Indianapolis/Eagle Creek
Cloudy
52° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 52°
Paris
Cloudy
53° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 53°
Mattoon/Charleston
Cloudy
53° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 53°
Terre Haute
Cloudy
56° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 56°
Terre Haute
Cloudy
56° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 56°
Scattered rain and mostly cloudy
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

Latest Video

Image

Sunday Morning Forecast Update

Image

Loogootee GBB State Finals

Image

Brycen Graber All-Time Assist Record

Image

Saturday Evening Forecast

Image

12 POINTS GROCERY STORE

Image

IL COVID-19 FIRST RESPONDER PROTECTIONS

Image

Pop up vaccine clinic

Image

Saturday Morning Forecast Update

Image

MARSHALL RED HILL

Image

BARR REEVE BLOOMFIELD

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Cases: 1185367

Reported Deaths: 22710
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook4739449351
DuPage766591194
Will64954892
Lake59408921
Kane50666716
Winnebago28319438
Madison27949454
St. Clair25391466
McHenry24290265
Champaign18079125
Peoria16880262
Sangamon16121217
McLean14581157
Tazewell13509240
Rock Island13056286
Kankakee12482189
Kendall1103785
LaSalle10786219
Macon9442185
Vermilion8557116
DeKalb8260112
Adams8003114
Williamson6794120
Whiteside5926147
Boone592171
Clinton557189
Coles519091
Grundy511363
Knox5017131
Ogle501473
Jackson460160
Effingham449269
Macoupin434779
Henry432656
Marion4262111
Livingston419876
Franklin414366
Stephenson409275
Monroe406383
Jefferson3976115
Randolph396078
Woodford367260
Morgan358676
Montgomery349268
Lee335143
Logan330753
Bureau330473
Christian330167
Fayette306452
Perry304657
Fulton285044
Iroquois277060
Jersey249346
Douglas244132
McDonough232140
Saline229747
Lawrence229624
Union218536
Shelby213734
Crawford200723
Bond190724
Cass188722
Pike168850
Clark168529
Wayne167148
Hancock167029
Warren166444
Richland163538
White160625
Jo Daviess160522
Ford158245
Washington158223
Carroll157634
Edgar154337
Moultrie149024
Clay142941
Greene137932
Johnson134712
Piatt132214
Wabash130012
Mason128241
Mercer128033
De Witt127822
Massac127133
Cumberland119218
Jasper110917
Menard10358
Marshall83815
Hamilton78815
Schuyler6775
Pulaski6705
Brown6636
Stark54022
Edwards52310
Henderson49814
Calhoun4782
Scott4491
Alexander4478
Gallatin4374
Putnam4153
Hardin34412
Pope2823
Out of IL40
Unassigned02216

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Cases: 660942

Reported Deaths: 12556
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion905601638
Lake48352874
Allen35762635
Hamilton32026396
St. Joseph29865511
Elkhart25350414
Vanderburgh21225377
Tippecanoe19977200
Johnson16319356
Porter15938269
Hendricks15801300
Clark11928180
Madison11730316
Vigo11578229
Monroe10312161
Delaware9830179
LaPorte9755196
Howard9047196
Kosciusko8549109
Bartholomew7440147
Warrick7403150
Hancock7394130
Floyd7189169
Wayne6630191
Grant6422157
Morgan6075125
Boone607288
Dubois5895111
Dearborn546866
Cass543399
Henry541793
Marshall5417104
Noble508578
Jackson464366
Shelby460190
Lawrence4179111
Gibson400881
Harrison398763
Clinton395053
Montgomery386283
DeKalb384678
Miami356763
Knox356485
Whitley348936
Huntington342376
Steuben337855
Wabash330876
Putnam329459
Ripley326861
Adams322549
Jasper315443
White297252
Jefferson294473
Daviess285396
Fayette271456
Decatur270488
Greene261280
Posey260531
Wells257674
Scott249950
Clay240844
LaGrange240770
Randolph225576
Spencer217030
Jennings214744
Washington210427
Sullivan203139
Fountain201142
Starke187951
Owen181953
Fulton178237
Jay177628
Carroll176418
Perry173235
Orange171150
Rush164322
Vermillion160242
Franklin159335
Tipton146141
Parke138815
Pike127432
Blackford120627
Pulaski106444
Newton96531
Brown94939
Benton91813
Crawford90313
Martin80014
Warren75513
Switzerland7537
Union67110
Ohio53211
Unassigned0431