Policy Options and Answers to your Most Frequently Asked Questions

In January of this year, we provided our clients with information to help you determine how to engage with your employees about whether to require or encourage vaccinations. As of April 23, over 228 Million vaccines have been administered within the United States and 1.16 Billion worldwide. This edition of TI Insights is designed to provide additional information as we focus on the most commonly asked questions from a Human Resources perspective, along with resources to assist you with your employee communications and policy preparation.

To assist you in creating a vaccination policy, we have provided the following resources:

Voluntary Vaccination Policy

Mandatory Vaccination Policy

CDC Toolkit: Materials for Communicating with Your Employees

The answers to the following questions were provided by the SHRM (The Society of Human Resource Management) during a recent Global Business Travel Association webinar.

Can companies require the vaccine?

Yes, with some restrictions pertaining to religious and disability exceptions. Each company should be reviewing your policy in accordance with the Americans with Disability Act regulations, as well as obligations under Title VII relating to employees who decline the vaccine due to a sincerely held religious belief.

Can companies require employees to provide proof of their vaccination?

In the US – Yes.  Employers can require proof of vaccination, however this should include any caveats for religion and disability.  It is not recommended to request additional medical information from the employees.  Outside the US, the legality will be based upon each individual country’s stipulations.

When developing a policy and/or procedure relating to Covid-19 Vaccinations, what should I be considering?

Based upon the culture of your company, as well as risk tolerance, you will first need to determine if you will be requiring the vaccination to either return to the workplace, or to travel domestically.  International travel requirements will likely be specified based upon the destination.  You will also want to consider what exemptions you will include, impact on worker’s compensation, as well as if you will be reimbursing for time or further incentives for obtaining a vaccination.

Is there a correlation between return to office and travel?

Yes, most companies believe that if it is safe to return to the office, it is safe to travel as long as employees follow CDC Guidelines.

If I need to make accommodation for employees who refuse to take the vaccine based upon either religion or disability, what would be considered appropriate accommodation?

Reasonable accommodation would include potentially offering telework options, isolating within the worksite so they are not in contact with other individuals, as well as scheduling considerations.

What should travel and HR professionals understand about the human rights and diversity issues informing individual decisions? What can and cannot be required?

Specific to the vaccine, HR professionals need to understand some of your employees will not be comfortable getting the vaccine or traveling.  As there is no single website or agency that can provide you all of the information, it is important that you first check your local and state laws.  For a global perspective, the WHO is the best resource.

It is extremely important to be empathetic.  This is a challenging time, stress has escalated and there has been an increase with mental health concerns.

How are HR departments handling employees who are unsure or unwilling to take the vaccine?

We recommend that your communication program include educational materials and the benefits for getting the vaccine.  The link above for the CDC Toolkit is a great resource.

For those that are opposed to receiving the vaccine, find out why they are opposed, and consider if the job function is essential to getting the vaccine.  For example, can they work remotely or just as effectively and productively if they are isolated.  It is important to consider alternative ways to do business, while requiring in office employees to be vaccinated.

If you decide to mandate, you will need to effectively communicate the explicit benefits of, as well as risks of not, receiving the vaccine.  Be clear and transparent in stating the reasons for your decision to mandate.  Be prepared that you may lose some of your employees through this decision.  However, you may also gain new employees that appreciate the culture and decisions you made for the mandate.

Can companies require that only certain employees be vaccinated?

Yes, as long as it is job related and based upon the role requirements.  Consider your business and who is at the highest or lowest risk. For example, you may wish to require the vaccination for those employees with high engagement within the office, or if regularly engaging with the public or traveling. Avoid any decisions that are non-role related!

 

How do you manage employees that refuse the vaccination in relation to those who have been vaccinated when staff is 100% back in the office?

Absent of religious or disability exemptions, employers can make vaccination a condition of employment, but recommend to tread lightly based upon possible legal implications. As a general rule, to avoid any discriminatory litigation, do not treat employees differently if they are vaccinated or are not.

As the impact of the pandemic is groundbreaking, it is anticipated that new types of litigation may also materialize. An example is a recent case of a detention worker in New Mexico that challenged their employer’s policy for vaccination of first responders, claiming there was not adequate proof the vaccine was safe.

 

How will HR address the stigmatization of employees who can’t / refuse vaccination for their own medical reasons?

Have a policy and include exceptions, and ensure each employee is trained on the policy.  Under no circumstances should employers provide a list of who has or has not received the vaccine.

 

Would you recommend against talking to a direct report about whether to take a vaccine, or refer the individual to HR?

When determining how your employees ‘feel’ about taking the vaccine, it is recommended to start with an anonymous poll.  It is up to your company as to what degree you are comfortable having direct reports discuss their position with their manager.  However, if it is customary within your culture to maintain an open communication, ensure the Directors are trained and prepared for these discussions.

 

How will travel managers reduce risk and provide Duty of Care for travelers that need ground transportation?

If vaccinated, risk is low – for those who haven’t been vaccinated, risk is higher.  Managers should follow CDC guidelines.  Fully vaccinated employees can travel within the US and do not need to quarantine, as long as they take Covid-19 precautions while traveling.

Consider adding language in your policy that relates to your acceptance of ride sharing, and if travelers are approved for black car service, research what testing parameters are being applied to each preferred vendor.

 

Do you have to allow employees to travel for personal reasons outside of the state or country?  If so, can we require them be tested before they return to work?

You cannot prohibit someone from traveling for personal travel whether domestically or internationally.  You can, however, build into your policy the need to have a negative test prior to returning to the workplace as part of your policy.

 

At what point can travel resume as normal with just ‘Herd Immunity’?

There are no formal percentages or magic numbers as to when Herd or Community Immunity is sufficient. Experts predict 70-90% of vaccinations would need to be given, and would depend on each country.

 

If we offer vaccinations, but someone contracts COVID later, am I liable?

The answer to this will be based upon your individual state Worker’s Compensation laws.

 

Can you offer employees incentives to get vaccinated?

Yes, although the decision whether to offer an incentive varies dramatically.  Based upon the SHRM survey in January of this year, 88% of those human resource professionals stated they were not planning to offer incentive; 6% were offering paid time off to get vaccinated; 3% offering gift certificates; 2% offering cash bonus; 1% offering stipends.

Most companies are still waiting on guidance from the Equal Opportunity Employment Division as incentives could be viewed as discriminatory, could elicit disability, discrimination, or tax implications.

 

For additional information, or if you have questions that have not been addressed above, please contact your Travel Incorporated Account Manager.

Travel Incorporated has provided a Covid Hub which includes significant information for you and your traveler’s education and information. This includes helpful links to data, testing and reentry requirements, as well as practical tools to support your revised policies and Duty of Care program.  
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