As of August 2021, about half the population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Agencies all over the country are starting to discuss what this means for their workplaces.
Can you require employees to get vaccinated? Should you? What about clients?
This is a topic you have to handle with care. People’s views on vaccines can vary, as well as their unique healthcare situations. It’s important to be thoughtful about the parameters you put in place for your agency because employees and clients will likely have questions.
No single vaccine policy will please everyone, but the good news is that there isn’t a “right” approach. The key is figuring out what the best move is based on your agency’s needs.
By determining your policy now (because every company will eventually need one), you can position your agency for success. Here are your three main options:
Mandate vaccination against COVID-19.
In the U.S., if you are going to require employees to take a vaccine, you must meet certain criteria:
First, your entire workforce must have access to the vaccine. Second, you must allow exceptions for medical or religious reasons. And third, it can’t breach a collective bargaining agreement. The last element likely won’t affect your agency if your employees aren’t unionized, but it’s worth mentioning.
If you mandate the COVID-19 vaccines, don’t forget to think through how this policy will affect or apply to remote workers. If some of your employees live outside of the U.S., for instance, you might need to follow different regulations.
Encourage team members to get vaccinated.
So far, it seems like most employers are taking a middle-ground approach. You can encourage your employees to get vaccinated, but there are limitations on what you can do to compel them.
In most cases, this type of “encouragement” would fall under a wellness program, which must be voluntary. You can offer incentives (e.g., water bottles or other swag) for getting vaccinated, but you can’t provide anything monetary, such as a bonus. You can ask to see a photo or vaccination card to verify that employees are vaccinated, but you can’t request to see their health records.
The only thing to remember is that some of your employees could have concerns with this approach. They might say, “I feel really uncomfortable working closely with co-workers who may not be vaccinated. So, I want us to continue wearing masks and social distancing.” If that isn’t a request you can fulfill, this might not be the best solution for you.
Choose not to adopt a formal policy.
The third option is to essentially turn a blind eye to everything. While this might seem like the easiest approach at the moment, it will become more complicated as other events, organizations, and municipalities begin to require proof of vaccination.
For example, if clients visit your office, you’ll have to limit who can meet with them and work on their accounts. If employees need to travel for client meetings, it might be tough to decide who travels and where if you don’t know which team members are vaccinated.
As an agency owner, you likely are feeling pressure to define a vaccine policy.
No matter which option you choose, you’ll need to clearly state what it is, write it down, and communicate everything to employees.
You’re never going to reach 100% agreement on your decision, but you have to choose whatever you think will be best for your agency. Just be as transparent as possible and maintain an open line of communication with employees and clients.