Are retailers facing a no-win decision in mandating vaccines for workers?
Surveys continue to show that between 40 and 50 percent of Americans are reluctant to take the coronavirus vaccine, likely including many of retail’s frontline workers.
Black Americans, people living in rural areas and Republicans are being found to be more hesitant about getting the shots.
Unfortunately, experts say that until the country reaches herd immunity (minimum 70 percent vaccination rate), outbreaks remain a threat, masks and social distancing will be urged, and any economic recovery will be restrained.
One option employers are privately exploring to speed the inoculation process is making masks mandatory for employees. With exceptions for disabilities or religious beliefs in some cases, vaccinations can be required for employees for such a threat.
Writing for the New York Times, Andrew Ross Sorkin said, in addition to showing leadership in helping to end the deadly pandemic, establishing a fully-vaccinated staff could be a competitive advantage. He wrote, “A service like Uber, for example, would be more attractive to customers if the company said that all of its drivers were vaccinated. The same could be said for Walmart, Starbucks or any other store or restaurant.”
For employees, coming to work would feel safer if all co-workers were vaccinated.
Beyond any personal freedom debates involved with mask mandates, however, huge concerns continue over the long-term side effects of the vaccines. Further, experts say people who have been vaccinated may still be able to carry the virus and spread it to others. Making vaccines compulsory may become a public relations nightmare.
For now, Crain’s Chicago Business found that even hospitals are making vaccinations voluntary despite flu shots being mandatory. A CNBC article noted that employers are considering using incentives, such as requiring fewer PPE requirements and temperature checks as well as giving financial perks, to drive compliance.
Most Americans won’t have access to the vaccine for several months, but the major retailer and restaurant trade groups are arguing their front line workers should receive early access.
“The CDC has made it clear that health care workers will be among the first to receive the vaccine, and that should include retail-level pharmacy workers, especially since they will play an important role in delivering the vaccine,” David French, NRFs SVP for government relations, told The Hill. “Groceries are also critical, so those workers should also be near the top of the list.”
- KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor: December 2020 – Kaiser Family Foundation
- Should Companies Require Employees to Take the Vaccine? – The New York Times
- Answers to Your Questions About the New Covid Vaccines in the U.S. – The New York Times
- Employers can require COVID-19 vaccination, but there are exceptions. Here’s what you and your boss need to know. – Chicago Tribune
- Will employers require workers to get vaccinated? – Crain’s Chicago Business
- Whose Workers Are Most Essential? Meatpackers, Airlines Lobby for Covid-19 Vaccine Priority – Wall Street Journal
- Restaurant Industry Pushes For Priority On Having Its Workers Vaccinated – The Hill
- Race heats up for workers getting early access to COVID-19 vaccine – The Hill
- Most Americans will likely get a Covid-19 vaccine, Kaiser Family Foundation survey finds – CNN
- Yes, your boss can fire you if you refuse to get a Covid vaccine – CNBC
- More Americans Now Willing to Get COVID-19 Vaccine – Gallup
- AP-NORC poll: Only half in US want shots as vaccine nears – Associated Press
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Should retailers recommend, strongly encourage or compel employees to take the coronavirus vaccine? Can retailers that mandate worker vaccinations avoid PR controversies?