More Businesses Mandating Vaccines, But Are Employees On Board?

Despite Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidance allowing employers to require vaccination for their workers and big moves from some trendsetting corporate leaders, legal and compliance executives generally remain uncertain when it comes to vaccine mandates.

A new survey by Gartner Inc. suggests a reason. The survey found that while litigation risk was the top concern before EEOC guidance dropped in May, GCs are now more worried about support from their own employee base.

Only 35% of survey respondents, all of them U.S. consumers, supported vaccine requirements in office settings, Gartner Legal and Compliance Senior Director Chris Audet said. In turn, only 5% of surveyed corporations require all employees to get vaccinated. An additional 6% require only certain employees to do so.

Meanwhile, an increasing number of law firms, both large and midsized, are mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for people who are returning to the office.

Some corporate leaders are also worried about backlash, attrition and turnover in an employee market where professional office workers have more options than ever before, particularly thanks to remote work.

“Companies reluctant to alienate employees are looking for something that everyone can agree on, something that has common ground,” Audet said. “And in the past, that’s been a continuation of health and safety measures.”

Instead of vaccine requirements, employers are largely relying on strategies to reduce workplace crowding. Alternating schedules, hoteling reservation systems for desks or meeting spaces, and even office redesigns are all being used to minimize risk of infection at workplaces.

Other companies are experimenting with hybrid remote-work schemes, or phased office-return policies. Such companies are likely to use phase-in schedules to assess safety measure efficacy, and how new configurations affect teamwork, Audet said.

Slowly but surely, however, some employers are deciding to stand for vaccine requirements. Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group announced Thursday that it’s restaurants will require employees to vaccinate. Google and Facebook have also announced the same policy for their campuses, while President Joe Biden announced Thursday civilian federal employees and contractors, as well as the military, will be required to attest to their vaccination status.

Whether those first movers will precipitate into widespread vaccine mandate adoption remains to be seen. Gartner is currently working on an updated report on the state of vaccine requirements, and while the data hasn’t been finalized, Audet said he’s found most legal departments are on the fence about requirements. They’re keeping an eye on what others do.

“We may reasonably anticipate some more companies to be a bit more aggressive in requiring vaccines now,” Audet said. “But historically, that just hasn’t been true.”


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