With Vaccine Mandates Looming, Companies Are Worried About Worker Shortages

The coming federal vaccine mandate could result in a wave of firings of employees who are reluctant to get the life-saving shots. That has many companies nervous that those jobs will be difficult to fill in a labor market where willing hands are increasingly hard to come by.

Close to three quarters of respondents to a survey this month who haven’t implemented a mandate of their own said fears of worker shortages were behind that decision. The survey, run by labor law firm Fisher Phillips LLP, contacted more than 1,500 professionals from different companies including executives, general counsels, human resources staff and others.

The same survey also found that about three quarters of companies that have implemented vaccine mandates haven’t seen an impact on their staffing levels.

The industries that have seen the highest turnover because of vaccine mandates were health care and transportation, the survey found, with more than half of respondents saying they had already encountered worker shortages as a result of requiring vaccination as a condition of employment.

The coming requirements would force businesses with 100 or more employees to get vaccinated unless they have a religious or medical exemption, or face weekly testing. There is uncertainty about how to accommodate, or not, workers who continue to refuse, and immediate firing is an unlikely first step.

Companies have also been mulling whether to institute the requirements ahead of time, and some research suggests only the most reluctant would be willing to sacrifice their jobs to avoid getting the shots.

Resistance to vaccines is still widespread, according to one study by job search site ZipRecruiter, which found that about 14% of job seekers surveyed in September said they don’t want to get the vaccine while another 20% said they wanted to wait before deciding.

“About a third of job seekers are reluctant to take the vaccine and it’s probably about the same for the workforce generally,” said Julia Pollak, chief economist at ZipRecruiter. “That’s a lot when (companies) are hard-pressed to try and control vacancies” during nationwide labor shortages, she said.

By some measures, labor shortages are less pronounced in California than in other states because of a sluggish recovery and high unemployment rates, but local businesses including restaurants are still finding themselves scrambling to find willing hands.

Despite the difficulty in finding workers, job postings that mention vaccine mandates have been ticking up recently in California and elsewhere.

If the federal mandate passes legal muster, companies and unions will have to grapple with which vaccine-reluctant employees to fire and which are granted some kind of exemption or potentially subjected to frequent testing instead. It’s a question on the mind of officials like Marty Frates, secretary and treasurer of the Teamsters Local 70 union, which represents some UPS employees at the company’s Oakland depot.

Currently, UPS has not mandated vaccines for its employees, Frates said, adding that he didn’t know how many union members had gotten the shots, but a portion of them are still refusing to get vaccinated.

“I’m in an awkward position,” he said, adding he feels it should be mandatory but that he’s obligated to represent union members who are against vaccination.

He said he hopes no one will lose their job once the mandate takes effect, and that alternatives like frequent testing or unpaid leaves of absence might work instead.

“You go a few weeks without a check, sometimes things change a little bit,” Frates said.

UPS spokesman Matthew O’Connor said in an email that the company is encouraging employees to get the shots and requiring them for some remote office workers to return in person. He didn’t address questions about the company’s vaccination rate or how difficult it might be to staff up if employees quit over the requirements.

Some private and public sector employees and their unions have been vocal about their opposition to vaccine mandates. The expected federal rules would apply to private-sector employers.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has backed a legal challenge by the state’s prison guards’ union to resist a mandate. More recently BART officials voted to require the shots for the agency’s employees, of which more than 800 of its 4,000-plus workers haven’t gotten the shots. Enough employees of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency also remained unvaccinated earlier this month to raise the specter of service cuts.

Some city first responders have continued to hold out as well, starting a process that could eventually lead to their firing.


Source Link