By Travis Decaminada
Key Takeaway: Employers are reportedly allowed to mandate vaccinations as long as they make reasonable considerations for those that cannot be vaccinated. However, there are a myriad of considerations that an employer may wish to better understand before mandating a vaccination, not the least of which is the possible impact on health insurance premiums.
Covid-19 vaccines have likely saved millions of lives and may be one of the most effective means to “end” the pandemic. However, for a variety of reasons not everyone is willing to get the shot. This raises numerous questions for an employer about how to handle unvaccinated employees. Foremost on an employer's mind may be the question of whether or not they can even mandate vaccinations.
In the U.S. an Employer Can Mandate the Covid-19 Vaccination
Per JD Supra, it is generally legal for an employer to make mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations (Official information from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission here), so long as the employer makes reasonable accommodations for those with legitimate reasons to not be vaccinated. In general, legitimate reasons include health complications or religious exemptions. In fact, according to The Hill, several major employers have already done so including Walmart, The Walt Disney Company, and the U.S. Federal Government. Further, per The Hill, “the number of job openings posted that required potential applicants to be vaccinated nearly doubled between July and August.”
A related article also from JD Supra provides some considerations for an employer contemplating mandatory vaccinations:
- Employers would do well to give employees ample notice before enacting such policies and to also be aware that becoming fully vaccinated can take weeks.
- Some employees will have legitimate reasons to not be vaccinated and reasonable accommodations must be made for them.
- While mandating vaccinations is legal on the federal level, certain state and local laws may complicate the matter.
- Ensure that any employees personal information, including their vaccination records, are kept strictly confidential.
- Consider the impact that this decision may have on your hiring pools, including any potential issues attracting a diverse workforce.
- Ensure that mask mandates are always being followed regardless of vaccination policies.
- Liability may be a real concern, be sure to understand your company's own risks. As of now legal challenges towards mandatory vaccinations have failed, though this may change in the future.
- Consider any public relations issues that may arise as a result of a vaccination mandate.
- Consider making efforts to address misinformation related to Covid-19. Doing so may lead to higher vaccination rates.
- Understand that an employer may be obligated to pay employees additional compensation such as the costs of travel to and from a vaccination site.
Possible Impact on Health Insurance
Just as with smoking, some companies are reportedly considering charging unvaccinated employees more for healthcare, per The Hill. As stated in the article, it is estimated that health insurance premiums for unvaccinated people may increase by as much as $20 to $50 per paycheck, should an employer decide to go this route.
Increasing an employee’s healthcare premium is not entirely unjustified; per the article, one benefits expert explained that there is a potential for healthcare costs to increase for unvaccinated employees because if they are afflicted with a severe case of COVID-19 the bill for hospitalization could be as much as $50,000. Also, according to the article experts speculate higher healthcare premiums could nudge people into getting vaccinated without a mandate. Moreover, the article reported that while some healthcare insurance companies have waived fees associated with Covid-19 in the past, this appears to be changing; therefore, unvaccinated people may soon find themselves with less support and more bills.
Information about COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws from the Department of Justice.
Key Things to Know About COVID-19 Vaccines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (here).