What one company is doing to enforce its vaccine policy

Employers and employees alike are expressing concerns and questions about vaccine mandates as they become more common in workplaces.

As of earlier this month, President Biden mandated vaccinations against COVID for businesses with over 100 employees. At present, according to the CDC, 54.7% of Americans are fully vaccinated.

Even so, mandates continue to be a sore subject both among employees and employers: A recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 28% of employees would refuse the vaccine, even if it cost them their jobs. It was found that 52 percent of respondents oppose mandatory vaccinations.

Before Biden's announcement, Validity, a data solutions provider, had put in place a vaccine mandate and reopened its offices in July, requiring that all U.S. employees and visitors be fully vaccinated. A conversation with COO Mike Piispanen centered on the decision-making process, employee reaction, and advice for other leaders dealing with mandated changes.

How does their vaccination policy currently mandate vaccinations?

Globally, Validity has 400 employees, including 325 in the United States. Validity requires vaccinations for all employees. Only vaccinated employees are allowed in their offices. It was their concept that their employees should be treated with safety, so Validity would be its own pod where employees could go when they were looking for a safe environment with completely vaccinated people. Visitors to the office are also required to provide proof of vaccination.

What factors did their company consider before making that decision?

With the vaccines becoming available, they decided to map out when it would be feasible for everyone to receive vaccines. They looked forward to opening their office in early July in light of the supply matching demand, and various calendars and schedules of the upcoming month becoming clearer.

The original plan was to require either a vaccination or a negative COVID test at entry, however, when delta began affecting the requirement, they dropped the testing quickly. It just seemed reasonable to protect their employees and staff with a vaccine while we're at work.

Do they have a plan to deal with employees who may not want vaccinations or to return to work at this time?

The employees’ badges were deactivated while waiting for their vaccination card, then they reactivated them. In their company, vaccination cards are uploaded through a secure online portal that is only available to the HR department. HIPAA-related information is not present. The company believes that simplicity is better. It's no secret that many companies have launched stunning technical solutions, but simple works the best. You are either vaccinated or not because we are binary.

However, there will always be a case-by-case approach because every employee has the right to seek a reasonable accommodation if they have a medical condition or deeply held religious beliefs, and they will certainly do that on a case-by-case basis. They will make it a condition of employment if the answer to it turns out to be, simply, "I don't want to get it." There is a very small percentage of the U.S. population in this company that has not been vaccinated so far. However, Validity is optimistic to think they will get everyone because it is a very collaborative and peer-oriented culture that many people want to be in.

As this issue has become so heated, did the leadership team fear potential blowback? When making this decision, was that taken into account?

The leadership discussed the legal ramifications early on and believe that as a privately owned employer, they have the power to make the final decision. It was determined that they wouldn't need to be the first to enact a policy. As far as mandates are concerned, other, larger organizations may blaze a trail.

Their assumption has always been that this is the path that will be followed by companies. Every morning, employers wake up thinking, 'We must protect our employees' health and safety.' No company operates without rules.

Are there any pieces of advice they would offer to other employers that plan and manage their mandates?

Neither a playbook nor guidelines were available on how to cope with a pandemic. There is no deadline. Real-time assessment and continual assessment are critical. This is a problem that will not go away. In the future, it will remain a component of our work environment, and companies must develop strategies to work within that context and keep everyone safe.

Employers are trying their best to take care of their employees here. The aim here is to provide them with the means to earn a living and a career, as well as ensuring their health and well-being. All of those things are very simple, and they are sure to resonate with anybody.

If you have any questions about the vaccination and employees please give us a call at (212) 365-4553 or email us at info@bentonoakfield.com as we offer our free HR software to verify compliance in your state.

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