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Employers Facilitating Employee Vaccinations and Making Plans for Return to Office

March 31, 2021

By Heather Nezich, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

U.S. employers are taking measures to make vaccines more accessible to their employees and encouraging them to get inoculated, according to a new survey by Willis Towers Watson. Another survey by Challenger, Gray & Christmas shows that companies are developing, implementing, and clarifying plans to bring their employees back to the office.

The Emerging Trends in Health Care Survey conducted by Willis Towers Watson found more than eight in 10 employers (84%) agree immunization of the population will allow the country to reactivate the economy, and 80% of employers say it will allow them to move to a new normal in terms of returning to the workplace. Yet, relatively few employers (10%) believe vaccines should be mandatory.

The Challenger, Gray & Christmas survey found that few companies will mandate the vaccine before workers return to the office, but the majority will strongly encourage their workers to receive it. Over 57% of employers reported they will encourage employees to receive the vaccine. In addition, more than 33% stated they will not mandate it, and 6% are still determining their approach to the vaccine.

However, 22% of companies did say they hope to ensure that most of their workers are vaccinated before returning to the office.

“Employers understand that by taking an active part in supporting the vaccination of employees, they can play a crucial role in ending the pandemic,” said Jeff Levin-Scherz, M.D., population health leader, Willis Towers Watson. “A common strategy for employers is to make vaccines an easy choice for employees by first helping convince them to get the vaccine and then making it easy for them to do so.”

The Willis Towers Watson survey identified various actions employers are taking to facilitate employee vaccination:

  • Six in 10 employers (60%) have communicated to employees the value of vaccines; another 35% are planning or considering doing so.
  • More than a third of employers (35%) have developed policies and procedures to make it easy for workers to get the vaccine; another 50% are considering doing so.
  • One in four employers (23%) are helping employees get vaccinated by obtaining vaccines to administer to their employees or facilitating access to vaccines through a third party; another 55% are planning or considering doing so.
  • Among employers that have taken action, or are planning or considering doing so, more than half (55%) are arranging for vaccines to be administered at retail pharmacies, while 45% plan to create a center or onsite/near-site facility to deliver vaccines.
  • Two in 10 respondents are offering incentives to get vaccinated, while nearly three in 10 (29%) are planning or considering doing so. Among those, 39% are providing extra leave or vacation time to get vaccinated, while a quarter (27%) are providing additional leave to employees who have negative reactions or get sick from the vaccine. One in 10 are offering cash or other financial incentives.
  • The survey also found just 10% are planning or considering requiring proof of vaccination as a condition of employment; nearly one in four (23%) are planning or considering requiring employees to get vaccinated for them to return to the worksite. Additionally, over half of respondents (55%) expect their workforces to be vaccinated by the end of 2021; however, only 30% expected the entire U.S. working population to be vaccinated this year.

According to the Challenger, Gray, & Christmas report, when asked whether employers have brought their workers back in-person, of the 96% of companies that reported they moved some or all of their workers to remote, 33% reported they have brought back all or some of their workers to the office. Another 63% are in the planning stages, with 14% planning to bring all of their workers back in-person. Nearly 5% had not brought anyone back into the office and had no plans to do so.

When asked if companies planned to keep their workers remote, the vast majority (79%) plan to institute a hybrid work arrangement where workers may come in some days and work remotely some days or keep certain categories of their workers remote permanently.

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