Can Your Employer Make You Get a Vaccine? A Conversation with an HR Consultant
With the availability of COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. becoming more widespread, many employees are wondering, can my company make me get a vaccine? There are varying thoughts on each vaccine, and some people are apprehensive about personally getting a vaccine that hasn’t gone through traditional clinical trials.
BioSpace recently explored opinions around employer-mandated vaccines. To gain more insight, we interviewed Krissy Fuller, a human resources consultant with be the change HR. She helped us learn more about the issue of mandated vaccines from an HR perspective and shared her predictions on what changes she thinks will last after the pandemic.
- Can you tell us a little bit about your background, before becoming an HR consultant?
Of course, I like to say I fell into HR, which I don’t think is a unique story, but I wasn’t necessarily looking for an HR position. I received my BA in dance, coached a professional dance team and taught at a high school. I wanted to go back to school for my master’s degree and needed a job that provided more flexibility than teaching allowed. I found a wonderful company and a job as an office manager that allowed me to start my master’s program. From there, my role grew and I started learning all about HR and loved it.
- How do you think the onset of COVID-19 has changed HR practices/training?
I think at the onset of COVID, HR was a bit of a scramble. Nobody knew what was happening and the climate was changing every day. Government recommendations were changing, programs were being developed on the fly. It was a constant stream of pivot situations. In HR specifically, I think we were able to highlight our flexibility and adaptability. I think some of us also found out how to update some antiquated practices. The onset allowed us to revisit current practices and procedures and modify them, making them more accessible and streamlined.
- What changes have you noticed companies making in response to COVID-19?
I’ve noticed companies becoming more flexible. Realizing that processes can change and it’s not a bad thing. I’ve seen companies learn how to ride a wave of ambiguity and thrive. More importantly, I’ve seen a lot of companies step up and worry more about their employees than the bottom line.
- What do you think about companies mandating vaccines? Can they legally do that in life sciences hubs like San Francisco and Boston?
Let me start with the second question first. Can they legally require it – the short answer is yes. Any company CAN require their employees to be vaccinated (provided there isn’t state legislation that prohibits it). But if they do, they need to be prepared to offer reasonable accommodations under federal and state law, and be ready to address/acknowledge employee’s concerns. They also need to be prepared to lose some of their employees.
Going back to your first question, I think companies need to do what is best and what works for them. Each company is different. In an ideal world, I’d love to see a company do an assessment first and see how the employees feel about being vaccinated. If you don’t have a good idea of how your team feels, you could risk losing a good portion and that may not be worth it. After that, look into their Workers’ Compensation policy and see how mandated vaccines could impact their policy. For example: if required and an employee has an adverse reaction to the vaccine - does the WC policy cover it? Go through the entire process, work with HR and legal and figure out what is best for their personal company. Don’t do things to copy another company - their culture is NOT your culture.
- What advice would you give to an employee who doesn’t want to get a COVID-19 vaccine at this time?
Talk to your employer first. Let them know your concerns. Is it a health conflict? Religious reason? There are some accommodations that they have to make. (Don’t lie and make things up!!) It could be fear - and that’s a totally valid reason and should be shared. At the end of the day, you want to feel good about where you’re working and who you’re working for. You shouldn’t compromise yourself or standards for a job. If after talking to them about your concerns, there isn’t a solution - look for a new job. Go someplace where your core values align and you can be yourself. I know that sounds easy for me to say - and I don’t say it lightly. No job is worth sacrificing yourself or compromising your beliefs.
- Have you noticed any new trends or changes that you think will last after the pandemic is over?
Yes! I think telecommuting/remote working is here to stay. A lot of companies realized that their staff can excel in remote work locations. I think Zoom meetings are here to stay - but not necessarily in the way you might be thinking. I think we’ve seen some great ingenuity with Zoom meetings being the new sales floor. You can preview a car over Zoom and save a trip to the dealer and arrive knowing they have exactly what you want. I think in the office setting, Zoom meetings will become less frequent and that meme of “this meeting should’ve been an email” will actually be true now.
Porschia Parker-Griffin is a Certified Coach, Professional Resume Writer, and Founder of Fly High Coaching. (https://www.fly-highcoaching.com) She empowers ambitious professionals and motivated executives to add $10K on average to their salaries.
Krissy Fuller, PHR (certified Professional in Human Resources), is a stellar and seasoned HR Pro at be the change HR. She received her BA from San Jose State University, loves sports, food, and ALL things dog.