Preparing for Flu Season Amid COVID
While COVID remains the top public health concern, flu season is around the corner. Employers should review employee benefits and wellness initiatives to promote employee health and preventive care. Although COVID is still ongoing, other respiratory illnesses, like the flu, still pose health and economic risks.
Vaccine Considerations for Employers
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have both provided guidance on employment-related vaccination.
OSHA: Employers are permitted to require employees to receive vaccinations if employers provide adequate information on the benefits of vaccinations. However, employees are permitted to refuse vaccinations if they present a reasonable belief that an underlying medical condition may pose a risk of serious illness or death, for which they are then protected under Section 11(c) of the OSH Act of 1970.
EEOC: In March 2020, the EEOC specifically addressed COVID-related issues in regard to the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act regulations, such as whether employers can compel employees to receive vaccinations, temperature screenings, require employees to stay home if symptomatic or sick, and return to work doctors’ notes. The EEOC also provided that employees can seek exemption due to a disability that prevents vaccination. This scenario would be defined as a “reasonable accommodation,” and the employer would need to grant the accommodation. However, if the accommodation creates an undue hardship to the employer (i.e., an action involving extensive difficulty or expense, such as employer’s size, financial resources, and structure of operation), an exemption may not be made.
General Considerations for Employers
Evaluating legal risks of requiring vaccines. First and foremost, employers should evaluate the legal risks of requiring vaccination. Factors may include religious, ADA, and other protected classes that can cause legal disputes among employees.
Assessing and granting exemptions. In evaluating legal risks of required vaccination, you may also explore scenarios for exemptions.
Encourage vaccination. As an alternative to requiring vaccination, encourage it. Provide informational posters or resources to inform your employees about the benefits of receiving the flu vaccine. Other information that could be relevant is reputable resources addressing concerns about vaccinations, receiving a vaccination during a global health pandemic, and how, if at all, the flu vaccine impacts COVID-19. Offering educational information to your employees can help provide the peace of mind in receiving a flu vaccine.
Another way to encourage vaccination could be hosting a vaccine clinic. This provides an easily accessible solution for your employees. Be sure to conduct your due diligence in ensuring proper safety and sanitation measures are taken, as well as ensuring your employees are well informed about the process.
Additionally, encouraging vaccination can be done through posters of available healthcare provider locations where the vaccine is available.
If you need additional guidance or have any questions regarding employee vaccinations, please contact Human Capital. Our HR experts can provide best practices, resources, and employee management support you may need.