More and more employers are now mandating vaccination against COVID-19 as a condition of returning to the office. Among them are some of the largest and best-known corporations in the country, from Walmart to The Washington Post and Tyson Foods to Twitter.
And with the delta variant of the coronavirus raging across the country, President Joe Biden announced last week that his administration will require almost all federal employees to get vaccinated or face stringent testing protocols.
“We’re talking to companies every day,” said Jack Lavin, president and CEO of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce. “There is definitely a trend toward mandating vaccinations. We strongly encourage companies to implement policies to vaccinate their employees before they return to the office. And if they’re not going to do that have strict protocols for mask wearing and testing.”
So far, most companies have chosen incentives over mandates, says Andrew Challenger, senior vice president of global outplacement and executive coaching at consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
But that may be about to change.
“It’s something companies have been thinking about for a long time,” said Challenger. But he said surveys conducted by the company found only 3-4% percent of employers said that they would consider mandating the vaccine.
“It was a very, very, very low number. Most were just saying it’s too hot a political issue and we just don’t want to go into it,” said Challenger. “And then last week the dam broke. We had Google, then Facebook, Walmart, Disney … all these major leader companies that everyone else looks at what they’re doing, take this first step. So I think that’s really going to change the calculus.”
He said the actions of such corporate behemoths will give cover to smaller companies to contemplate vaccine mandates of their own.
“I think it is now an issue that is legitimately on the table for a much broader set of companies,” said Challenger.
And fears about the spread of the highly contagious delta variant may also be changing minds about mandates.
“I think more and more companies, especially with the delta variant, are moving in that direction,” said Lavin. “But every company is different. Companies that have front-line workers, they have different things to consider and different parts of their operations to consider. So, this is something that everybody is looking at and looking at their operations, and every company is different. ... But there’s definitely – for returning to the office – there is a trend toward vaccination."”
And for those employees who may be reluctant to get the vaccine, Lavin said it’s time for business leaders to “step up” and educate their employees.
“It’s not just about you as an individual. When you work for a company, when you work for anybody, it’s about your fellow employees. It’s about the business. It’s about your community. And vaccinations have proven to be successful,” said Lavin. “We don’t want the economy to turn around again.”