Choosing the Best Vaccine Strategy for Your Printing Company Employees
As the COVID-19 vaccine production increases, the vaccine will soon be made available to millions of workers. Companies recognize that as employees become vaccinated, the workplace becomes safer. And because fewer people will be out due to illness and quarantine, production staffing will stabilize. Consequently, vaccination benefits both the employees and the companies if workers, so the challenge is how to encourage vaccination among the workforce.
Companies have several strategies for encouraging vaccination. Each of them starts with having a careful, comprehensive conversation with the staff about the importance of keeping the workplace safe. In this discussion, acknowledge that not everyone will want, or is able, to be vaccinated. The decision to get vaccinated is both private and personal. Educating and sharing information on the benefits of vaccine may help calm any controversy. Give employees information from a trusted public health organization, which could be the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or a local or regional health department, medical system, or academic institution. Let them know that if a person is among the people who are vaccinated but still contract the virus, the symptoms are less severe and mortality is reduced by 95% compared to unvaccinated individuals.
Three basic approaches make-up the possible vaccine strategies. First, employers may be able to mandate vaccinations in certain situations. For printers and the graphic communications industry at large, the reasons to mandate a vaccine are much less compelling than, for instance, the healthcare, grocery, or other industries where employees have significant contact with the public. Printing operations have limited numbers of employees who interact with the public, and those interactions are comparatively low. The printing industry has succeeded at reducing COVID-19 workplace risks and while final data is not available yet, there appear to have only been a few “clusters” that have occurred at printing facilities.
Employers should be cautious about mandating vaccines because it could open the door to lawsuits from employees who do not want to be vaccinated and do not fit into a category of people who may be excused from mandatory vaccines. In addition, there is a morale issue to be considered. Many people do not trust government or the medical profession. Forcing people to get the vaccine may cause employees to resent the company, which will pull down not only their morale, but also that of their coworkers and friends.
The second strategy is to bring a healthcare team on-site to administer the vaccines to those who voluntarily ask for it. This choice also presents potential liability if, for instance, something were to go wrong in the vaccine administration or if an employee fell ill after receiving the vaccine. Also, bringing a team on site may make employees feel pressured into getting vaccinated as if it were mandated by management.
If, however, the company decides to move forward with the strategy of on-site administration, it is important to understand the most recent guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on this issue. The EEOC has stated that administering the vaccine at the workplace is not a medical examination for purposes of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which is good news. Implementation of any screening questions, however, is where employers could run afoul of both the ADA and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). To avoid violating those laws, employers must establish that the vaccine screening questions are job-related and consistent with business necessity.
The good news is that the business necessity standard can be fulfilled if the company can show that an unvaccinated person would be a direct threat to the health and safety of themselves or others in the workplace. However, this standard will be harder to meet if a large number of employees are already vaccinated, because then an unvaccinated employee will be much less likely to get anyone sick.
The third strategy will balance safety concerns, employee morale, and potential liability. This approach is to reduce or remove any barriers that discourage employees from getting a vaccine off-site. To do this, companies should allow employees time off from work to receive the vaccine without using their accrued, unused paid leave. This could likely be accomplished by offering employees half-days off for each dose of the vaccine that they require.
In addition to time off, other incentives may also be used to encourage employees to get the vaccine. Care must be taken to be sure that incentives that are directly linked to getting the vaccine must be “de minimus” so as not to appear to discriminate against those who are choosing not to be vaccinated for any reason. This is an important aspect of EEOC regulation. A de minimus incentive could include low denomination gift cards. For example, $25 would almost certainly be considered de minimus.
Another option is to create a raffle contest in which employees may participate regardless of anything related to health and not contingent on satisfying a health standard.
- Structure the contest as a “thank you” to employees for making it through the pandemic. Provide raffle tickets to every employee for a chance to win and ensure that every employee has at least one raffle ticket. Create additional categories to receive extra raffle tickets, for example, give extra tickets as recognition for an “over and above” effort on the job and for other positive work. Give an additional opportunity to get raffle tickets by receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.
- Be sure to draw the winners of the raffle at a time after the vaccine has been accessible in your area.
- The raffle prize (or prizes) can be a higher value than the “di minimus” gift cards because earning the tickets and winning prizes is not contingent on receiving the COVID-19 vaccine or linked to satisfying any health standard. Suggestions for prizes are extra PTO, a voucher for a restaurant in your community, a voucher for a one-year membership to a museum or cultural institution of the employee’s choice, a season pass for an amusement park or local attraction, or something similar. Work with an Employment or Benefits attorney to create or verify that your contest is not a wellness program and does not violate EEOC regulations.
Each company must choose the strategy that works best for that organization. In all instances, though, the company should be transparent about its approach. In a clear message with employees, management should share information about the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine and how the workplace will be safer for employees because of it.
Adriane Harrison is the Vice President of Human Relations at PRINTING United Alliance, the largest, most comprehensive member-based printing and graphic arts association in the United States. PRINTING United Alliance members have exclusive access to preeminent education; training; workshops; events; research; governmental and legislative representation; safety and environmental sustainability guidance; and resources from the leading media company in the industry – NAPCO Media.
In this article, Harrison addresses how to manage the COVID-19 vaccine in your workplace. More information about COVID-19 can be found here or reach out to Harrison should you have additional questions specific to how these issues may affect your business: firstname.lastname@example.org.
To become a member of PRINTING United Alliance and learn more about how PRINTING United Alliance subject matter experts can assist your company with services and resources such as those mentioned in this article, please contact the Alliance membership team: 888-385-3588 / email@example.com.
Adriane Harrison is Vice President, Human Relations Consulting at PRINTING United Alliance. Adriane assists members with a wide variety of HR matters involving statutes, regulations, policies, procedures, culture, and staffing, as well as the gamut of day-to-day HR issues. In addition, she supports professional development by conducting webinars, participating in panel discussions, and speaking at industry events on human resources issues. Currently, Adriane is the Chairperson of the Graphic Communications Workforce Coalition, a member of the Women in Print Alliance, and a founder of the Women’s Print Mentoring Network.
Adriane received a journalism degree from the University of Illinois and a law degree from DePaul University in Chicago. As an attorney, Adriane practiced in both the public and private sectors. Her work was in the areas of Constitutional, commercial, securities, and criminal law. Adriane and her family live in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.