By Steph Breunig, HR Practice Leader

According to a recent U.S. Census Bureau survey, the number of small businesses requiring employees to get vaccinated against the coronavirus varies by location and industry, with Puerto Rico and health care employers topping the list.

Puerto Rico is leading at 19 percent of employers reporting that they are requiring workers to get vaccinated, compared to a national average of just 4.4 percent.

Among industries, health care employers were the most likely to report a COVID-19 vaccine mandate (6.6 percent), followed by the accommodation and food services sector and the education sector (both at 6.4 percent).

No matter where you fall on the vaccine spectrum, there are some points employers should keep in mind if they require or encourage employees to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Don’t ask for too much information

Employers may want to ask workers for proof of their COVID-19 vaccination status now that many federal and state officials have relaxed COVID-19 safety rules for people who are fully vaccinated. But employers should be careful not to ask for more information than is necessary.

While employers can ask for proof of vaccination as long as it doesn’t give away other protected information, they should refrain from asking follow-up questions about why an employee did not receive a vaccination. Such inquiries may elicit disability-related information, according to the EEOC, and would be subject to the ADA's requirement that questions be "job-related and consistent with business necessity."

Employers should ask only for the bare minimum of supporting documentation, such as a vaccination card or a survey response.

Employers should also consult applicable state law, too, which may differ from federal rules and guidelines. Additionally, if employers are requiring workers to get vaccinated, they will need to consider reasonable accommodations for employees with disability-related or sincerely held religious objections.

Maintain Confidentiality

If employers do require proof of vaccination, they should control access to the information and limit its use. Employers should keep the information confidential and provide the level of protection they would for employee medical information, even though the EEOC doesn't consider questions about vaccination status to be medical inquiries.

Many Employers Are Encouraging Vaccination

Research from the Society for Human Resource Management showed that 74 percent of employers planned to recommend that their workers get vaccinated.

Instead of getting into a sticky wicket with vaccination requirements, many employers are focusing on incentivizing and encouraging vaccinations.

Some SHRM.org suggestions:

  • Develop vaccination education campaigns.
  • Make obtaining the vaccine as easy as possible for employees.
  • Cover any costs that might be associated with getting the vaccine.
  • Provide incentives to employees who get vaccinated.

Regardless of what your policy is, employers should be communicating with workers clearly and often as to current status of COVID 19, changing policies and what precautions are currently there to protect them.

If you need help managing COVID-19 in the workplace, please reach out to hr@finepointconsulting.net

Fine Point Consulting is a boutique consulting firm offering expert-level professional accounting & human resources services customized to meet your budget. We help entrepreneurs who are trying to scale fast, get more done, and stay lean.

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