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Mandatory vaccination: Is it right for your P&C workplace?

September 11, 2021   by Jason Contant

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An increasing number of organizations have been mandating that their workers get vaccinated, while many others are trying to decide whether to follow suit.

For those still deliberating their options, the decision could have a significant impact on short-term productivity and profits, as well as long-term ability to attract and retain needed talent, two Willis Towers Watson employees wrote in a recent blog.

There are seven recommendations to consider when considering a vaccination mandate, wrote Jeff Levin-Scherz and Mike Orszag. Levin-Scherz is a population health leader of the North American health and benefits practice of WTW who is also trained as a primary care physician. Orszag is an economist and managing director of research at WTW, based in London, U.K.

The seven recommended actions below were published Sept. 9 in the Harvard Business Review blog, Should Your Company Implement a Vaccination Mandate?

Evaluate the risk of workplace spread

All employers are responsible for providing a safe working environment for employees and must protect the lives and health of customers and those they serve.

“Employees are most likely to accept vaccination mandates when there is strong evidence that they will protect the most vulnerable or have other clear business or public health benefits,” Levin-Scherz and Orszag wrote. “Even for those companies with a lower risk of onsite transmission, mandates can increase employees’ and customers’ perceptions of safety.”

Employers may implement vaccination mandates for higher-risk employees, such as for those who travel frequently for business, to avoid quarantines or illness away from home. In addition, some companies could require employees to be vaccinated so that they will be allowed onsite at the facilities of customers who have implemented a vaccination mandate.

Conversely, the case for mandating vaccination is much less compelling for employers that have only remote workers who do not have in-person contact with customers, the blog said. The same is true for employers with workforces whose vaccination rate is already high.

Assess the likely impact of a vaccination mandate on talent

Employers need to consider the specific conditions in their particular industry. For example, in nursing homes, mandates are likely to be widespread, so a mandate is unlikely to cause workers to jump ship.

But the Canadian P&C insurance industry is a whole different industry. However, some people worried about being exposed to COVID-19 might be more willing to return to work or take a new job if they are assured that vaccination rates for the site’s workforce are very high due to a mandate.

Calculate the economic impact of a mandate

Companies with higher rates of employee vaccination will have fewer cases of severe COVID-19 and incur lower medical costs.

Employers implementing a vaccination mandate will also have to pay the administrative costs of tracking vaccination status, including safeguarding the privacy of employees’ personal health information.

Develop straightforward policies and procedures to make the mandate easy to implement

Employers mandating COVID-19 vaccinations should have clear and simple implementation policies addressing:

  • who is subject to the mandate
  • what proof of vaccination is required
  • whether to require booster shots when different cohorts become eligible for them
  • criteria for granting exemptions
  • standards for those granted vaccination exemptions.

Implement a comprehensive communication plan

Fully communicate plans to issue a vaccination mandate months before the implementation date, the blog suggested.

The best communication will include a clear statement about why the mandate is being put in place and its benefits for employees, family, the community, and the company. Communicate the plan via multiple media, such as emails, brochures, office posters, videos, etc.

Proactively address liability concerns

Employers that are considering offering onsite vaccination delivered by their own staff should check with legal counsel to be sure that they would not incur additional liability.

An effective mandatory vaccine policy could also diminish potential company liability by reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the workplace.

Measure the effectiveness of the mandate

Evaluate the effectiveness of the mandate in real-time. Measure the changes in the rates of vaccinations, exemptions, employee turnover, and the administrative resources expended, Levin-Levin-Scherz and Orszag wrote in the blog.

Employers should also analyze the impact on employee morale and satisfaction. “A timely evaluation system can help employers change policies, procedures, and communications in ways that improve vaccination rates and employee satisfaction.”

While 100% employee vaccinations may be impossible to achieve, thoughtfully implemented mandates are likely to lead to higher levels of vaccination than other employer approaches, the blog said.

“But mandates are not right for all employers. In deciding whether to implement one, they should carefully consider whether this is the best approach to protect employees, customers, and their communities.”


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