Workers are returning to the office at the highest rate since the pandemic began, with many more expected to return in early 2022. Alongside these plans, many organizations are creating a COVID-19 vaccination policy in order to prioritize employee wellbeing and safety during this transition.
For some, this policy might outline the requirement to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. For others, the policy may offer more of an encouragement to get vaccinated. Either way, a documented policy can offer more clarity around a topic that’s top of mind for many.
Why you might need a COVID-19 vaccination policy
The COVID-19 pandemic has been largely unpredictable, but vaccines have proven a worthy adversary. Having a policy that encourages or requires COVID-19 vaccinations can help you:
- Provide a safe, healthy workplace: Vaccinations can lower the risk of office COVID-19 outbreaks, severe illness, and death for your team members, customers, and community. A vaccination policy can help your team members feel safer returning to the workplace, and help your customers and partners feel more comfortable interacting with your team again.
- Manage COVID-related absences: Local quarantine recommendations following a COVID-19 exposure may be different for vaccinated and unvaccinated team members. For example, the CDC recommends that unvaccinated people quarantine for 14 days following an exposure, while recommending that vaccinated people quarantine only if they have symptoms. Encouraging or requiring vaccinations can help reduce COVID-related absences, and tracking vaccination status can help you guide team members in the event of an exposure at work.
- Maintain compliance with evolving regulations: As more local government agencies implement or update masking and vaccine mandates, a policy can help your company stay in compliance. In California, for example, state employees, health care workers, and workers in high-risk settings must be fully vaccinated or submit to weekly COVID-19 testing. Mask mandates may also vary by public health agency and vaccination status. Your policy can make requirements clear for your team members, and tracking vaccinations and test results can help you monitor and report on compliance.
Formalizing your vaccination policy will make it easier for you to communicate it with your team and apply it consistently.
What to include in your policy
COVID-19 vaccination policies may differ by type of business, the level of risk for your business type, or your geographic location. Clearly state whether your organization will require or encourage the COVID-19 vaccination, and provide information around the vaccination and why you’re promoting it. You might also consider including the following:
- Definition of ‘vaccinated.’ Some vaccines are a single dose while others require two doses. Boosters are now available as well. Define what you will consider to be ‘fully vaccinated.’
- Deadlines. Provide dates by which existing team members should be vaccinated and the time period in which new hires will be expected to comply. Take into account that some vaccines require more time than others. For example, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is given as a single dose, while the Moderna vaccine requires a second dose four weeks after the first.
- Paid time off. Outline any paid time off team members may take to receive and recover from the vaccine. Most side effects occur within three days of vaccination.
- Exceptions. Medical and religious exemptions are important for maintaining a diverse and equitable workplace, and may be required by law. People who have been recently infected with COVID-19 may also require a longer grace period to comply.
- Alternatives. Outline the alternatives for those who choose not to be vaccinated. For example, you might require regular COVID-19 testing and personal protective equipment (PPE) for unvaccinated team members who come into the office or work in the field. Go into detail about how often testing is required, which types of tests are accepted, what happens if a test is missed, and what kind of PPE is required. You may also choose to allow remote work, or to terminate an unvaccinated team member who doesn’t have a medical or religious exemption.
- Incentives. Share incentives for getting vaccinated, like a monetary reward, paid time off, or gift. You might also provide an incentive to the whole company when you reach a certain goal, like a percentage of people vaccinated.
- Penalties. Some companies have a penalty for team members who don’t get vaccinated, like insurance surcharge. If you choose to do the same, explain it in detail and make it clear that it doesn’t apply to those with medical or religious exemptions.
Knowledge around COVID-19 is constantly growing and advice is evolving, so make it clear that your policy is also subject to change. Make sure you have a solid version control process in place so team members can always find the most up-to-date version of your policy.
How to manage your vaccination policy
As with any major change, it’s imperative that you communicate your new policy thoroughly. Roll out your policy during an all-hands meeting, where you can discuss the benefits, safety, side effects, and effectiveness of vaccinations. Review the different parts of your policy, from paid time off and incentives to exceptions and alternatives. Share where team members can get vaccinated, and any deadlines that apply to your policy. And provide team members with the opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback.
You will also need to think about the tactical execution of your COVID-19 vaccination policy. Consider how you will securely track:
- Immunization status. Make it easy for team members to upload their immunization records, and consider tracking which vaccine each team member received and when. If you might require or encourage boosters in the future, having this data in your system can simplify the process.
- COVID-19 test results. If you will require regular testing for unvaccinated team members, you will need to have a workflow in place to ensure requirements are being met and test results are tracked. Again, you will need an easy way for team members to upload their documents to simplify the process for them.
- Time off. Companies offering time off for COVID-19 vaccinations and recovery will need a way to track and approve requests in order to balance them with staffing needs.
The right technology, like Sapling, can reduce the administrative burden of implementing your new policy and provide an audit trail of activity.
Final thoughts on your vaccination policy
There’s no doubt about it—the pandemic has been a challenging time for People Ops professionals. You’ve managed remote work, new safety protocols, layoffs and furloughs, rehiring, and now the ‘Great Resignation’ and a new vaccination policy. You have a lot on your plate.
Let technology help you with some of the heavy lifting. A solution such as Sapling provides an end-to-end solution for communicating, implementing, and managing your new immunization policies. That way, your People Ops team can focus on your people.