Big Decisions Ahead for Employers About the Covid-19 Vaccine

The Food and Drug Administration has approved an emergency use authorization for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. These vaccines are not likely to gain full FDA approval until later this spring and then distribution will be done in a phased approach. On December 16th, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) confirmed that a COVID-19 vaccination requirement by itself would not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Employers can make the COVID-19 vaccination a requirement so long as there are considerations made to employees with disabilities or religious beliefs.

The healthcare industry is the most likely to require COVID-19 vaccinations for their workers. Many already require workers to get a flu shot annually and to provide proof of other immunizations if they are going to work in a job with patient contact.  Travel, retail and food service businesses can also build a strong case that their employees pose a risk to others.

Experts warn that due to fear about safety concerns of the vaccine, it may be difficult to make the vaccination a condition of employment. Employers will want to carefully approach this decision as it could result in a loss of staff, business slowdown and negative publicity. In a recent SHRM survey, 55% of organizations say they are unsure whether they will require employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccination before returning to the workplace. Forty percent of organizations say they will not insist on a COVID-19 vaccination before an employee returns to the workplace.

Instead of mandating, employers can consider ways to encourage employees to take the vaccine.  Some suggestions include:

  • Creating a social media campaign that shows employees getting vaccinated
  • Providing access for employees to receive the vaccine at work
  • Make it easy for staff to schedule vaccine appointments
  • Covering the vaccine administration cost at any location the employee chooses
  • Consider offering paid time-off to receive the vaccines and to recover from any side effects


Employers have the opportunity to play an important role in promoting vaccination. It is necessary for employers to carefully approach this decision, understand the legal issues and implement a plan that will work for the business and the employees.  


Contributed by: Amy Noel