As OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) works its way through the courts, many employers will require employees to be vaccinated.
That could be challenging, given that nearly one in five employers (19%) believe that their employee vaccination rate is under 50%, while only one-third believe that at least 75% of employees are vaccinated, according to a new survey from Willis Towers Watson.
The survey also found that 57% of respondents require or are planning to require their employees be vaccinated. A further breakdown of that majority shows that 18% already require vaccinations and 7% plan to regardless of the ETS status. However, 32% of employers only plan to require vaccinations if the ETS takes effect.
One major concern those employers cite: staff turnover. Thirty-one percent of respondents are very concerned a vaccine mandate could contribute to employees leaving their organization. Only 3% of respondents with vaccine mandates reported a spike in resignations. And many more (48%) said that vaccine mandates could help retain and recruit employees.
“Despite the current holding pattern pending the court rulings, we advise employers to proceed with plans to implement the mandate as well as other efforts to protect their workers,” said Jeff Levin-Scherz, M.D., population health leader at Willis Towers Watson in a statement. “Employers can encourage vaccinations and boosters with scheduling flexibility and time off, promote regular testing, stipulate mask wearing onsite to ensure employee health and safety — and support this with regular communications.”
In addition to vaccine mandates, respondents report they are simultaneously preparing for the less controversial option in the ETS: testing. Eighty-four percent of employers will offer testing, most on a weekly basis (80%). However, those employers don’t have a final plan. Forty-seven percent are either unsure or have not decided what type of testing to use, and 40% are either unsure or have not yet decided who would pay for testing. One-quarter will require unvaccinated employees to pay for testing unless prohibited by state law.
Furthermore, 90% of respondents require or plan to require employees wear masks masks indoors.
One perhaps surprising survey finding is the waning offerings of financial incentive for employee vaccination. Three-quarter of respondents offer no financial incentives, 11% offer some financial incentive and 14% have discontinued or plan to discontinue financial incentives. Only 2% reported they have either a health insurance surcharge for unvaccinated employees or premium reduction for vaccinated employees.
A majority of respondents that require or plan to require vaccinations will evaluate requests for medical exemptions (51%) and religious exemptions (58%) internally.
The Willis Towers Watson Fall 2021 COVID-19 Vaccination and Reopening the Workplace Survey was conducted Nov. 12-18. A total of 543 U.S. employers responded, and they employ 5.2 million workers.