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How Will the COVID-19 Vaccine Impact the Workplace?

Apr 22 , 2021


Vaccines will have an impact on the workplace going forward.

The COVID-19 vaccine rollout is expected to positively impact workplaces by decreasing workers' chances of becoming infected with the virus or passing it on to others and nearly eliminating the chance of severe effects or death from the virus. 

While the early vaccine rollout limited the availability of the vaccine to certain groups, all American adults became eligible to get the vaccine on April 19. According to the latest poll, around 1 in 5 people say they won't get the vaccine, however.

To Mandate or Not to Mandate

Workplaces now need to decide whether to mandate vaccination for their employees, which is permissible under current federal law. A few states are in the process of making their own laws about whether vaccination can be mandated, so it's important for employers to keep up with their state's requirements.

While jobs that require travel or contact with the public have an excellent case for requiring their employees to be vaccinated, there are also good reasons not to make vaccination a requirement. For one thing, employers that mandate the vaccine may be held liable for any adverse reactions to it. These may be covered under worker's compensation insurance when the employer can show that vaccination was necessary. 

There may also need to be accommodations to a vaccine requirement for those with religious objections or disabilities under the ADA laws governing vaccinations. But for others with less specified objections, a workplace that requires vaccinations may have to terminate employees who refuse to be vaccinated in order to show non-discrimination.

Because of these reasons, many employers are deciding to offer encouragement or incentives to get the COVID-19 vaccine rather than requiring it. Offering bonus pay or extra time off for getting vaccinated can accomplish the same or nearly the same goal as a mandate and avoid the need to fire non-compliant employees. 

Mandating employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine is one of several options.

Vaccines and Hiring

As companies look to hire employees, they also have to decide how to handle the issue of vaccination. Legally, they can ask candidates whether they have been vaccinated and even require proof of vaccination if the job requires it, but they cannot access medical records to do so. 

Candidates are allowed to share information about vaccination with prospective employers, and employers can use that information to make hiring decisions if it has been established that vaccination is necessary for the job. But again, ADA laws and religious objections must be allowed and factored into hiring decisions so that discrimination does not occur.  

No matter what rules and requirements employers decide to put in place regarding COVID-19 vaccines, it's certain that workplaces will change as a result of COVID-19 and the vaccine. Thinking through and planning for these changes will help employers be prepared for them and keep the workplace safe. 

Staffing needs are more complex than ever during the pandemic and recovery. Need assistance with your staffing? Contact GDH to see how we can help.