What to Do If Employees Refuse to Get Vaccinated?

July 22, 20212:50 pm440 views
What to Do If Employees Refuse to Get Vaccinated?
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Global vaccination campaign is underway, with more than 3.71 billion doses having been administered across 179 countries. In the Southeast Asia region, countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore are accelerating their vaccination programmes to achieve herd immunity and spur economic recovery. 

Due to wide areas of distribution, vaccination drives are done in phases with prioritized groups. Besides healthcare workers and senior citizens, workers in essential businesses are among prioritized groups to receive the vaccines. More companies are encouraging their staff to get the jabs, hoping that the work activity can return to a pre-pandemic situation. As many have known, Covid-19 often spreads quickly in a work setting where employees are staying together for hours in a closed room. It will be risky for employees to work side by side when vaccination, as a means of protection against the virus, has not been fully given to them. 

While vaccination should not be made mandatory, what should employers do to employees who refuse to get vaccinated? 

Listen to concerns

Instead of speculating why employees refuse to get the shots, leaders need to approach them and ask directly. Whatever opinions you have on those who refuse to get vaccinated, it is vital to recognize that it can be a sincerely held belief for them. The TCM Group’s David Liddle suggested HR leaders should first listen to these group’s concerns. Regardless of the reason, they need to be listened to, not judged. If this is done properly, you can get a chance of negotiating an outcome, rather than trying to apply a general norm to everyone. HR that enables dialogue in a “respectful” manner will have a better chance of addressing any issues. Liddle added that although the topic may be irreconcilable, listening can give a better control of the tone of debate regarding this matter. 

The most effective techniques for coping with any workplace vaccine problems are transparency and dialogue. Thus, education and awareness should be the primary focus, and companies may begin doing so right now. Esther Langdon, an associate at law firm Vedder Price, argued that it is crucial to proceed carefully if workers get confrontational about their anti-vaccination ideas. If an employee rejects the offer to get vaccinated, HR needs to ensure that this employee is not harmed as a consequence. This situation needs cautious handling, since it is a sensitive matter that can spark tensions for both parties.

Read Also: Ensuring a Fair Workplace during Vaccination: Q&A with Dr Low Kiang Wei, Medical Director for International SOS

Building awareness from the inside

Companies have a responsibility to safeguard their employees’ health and well-being by informing them about the benefits and drawbacks of vaccines. Thus, they can develop their own positive message about vaccination’s advantages and promote it as a health benefit. Leo Martin, founder and director of ethical business advisors GoodCorporation, suggested that HR has an ethical obligation to guarantee accurate information regarding the vaccination. Moreover, its advantages should be effectively communicated in order to encourage maximum participation. It may also be important to counter any vaccination misinformation, since this might lead to misguided fear and impede the vaccination program’s success.

If All Else Fails

Educating employees about the importance of vaccination has become mandatory in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Regardless of how employees react to it, HR needs to remain open to any objection that may arise. Two-way communication and understanding should be prioritized regarding this matter. If vaccination is an essential health and safety control measure required for the health and safety of workers or others who may be impacted by the company, then dismissal of an anti-vaxxer may be appropriate. 

However, by taking that stance as an employer, HR must be prepared to justify the company’s position on health and safety grounds. It is not enough to simply cut off employees who refuse to get vaccinated, as currently there is no law that regulates this as a legally bound mandatory. HR should be very cautious of imposing vaccinations on staff who have a genuine needle phobia or a health condition that prevents them from being vaccinated. The key of advocating vaccination is to balance between raising health awareness among employees while maintaining ethical behaviour by not committing discrimination. 

Read Also: Vaccination for Workers in Higher Risk Employment Settings Can be Mandatory, Said Tripartite Partners