The COVID-19 vaccine is putting us closer towards a pre-pandemic lifestyle, but with the shot comes new concerns. Now that we're slowly starting to return to the office, questions are circulating about whether or not employers can require workers to receive the vaccine. As with most things surrounding COVID-19, the answer is complicated.
New guidance from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) states that employers have the legal right to require a vaccine. However, there is no federal law that specifically addresses this. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), private businesses and state law will ultimately decide how companies will proceed, though religious and medical exemptions are factored into decisions.
"Whether an employer may require or mandate COVID-19 vaccination is a matter of state or other applicable law," a statement from the agency reads.
Although vaccinations are up, there is still hesitancy around the receiving the shot. (Be sure to check out our roundup of facts vs. myths regarding Covid vaccines and pregnancy, fertility, and periods if you have questions.) How do employees and employers handle the situation?
For staffers who have concerns about their company's policy, it's important to treat this like any other matter you'd raise with human resources. Companies like GlassDoor always suggest reviewing company policies, keeping a paper trail of correspondence, and scheduling a meeting with HR specialists when you have to present an issue to the HR department.
Of course, seeking medical expertise is first on the to-do list.
"If your doctor says you should get it, get it. If your doctor says you shouldn't get it, then inform your employer that your doctor advised against it and ask for ADA paperwork to take to your doctor," HR expert Suzanne Lucas tells woman&home.
But it's not one-sided; the employer has to do its part of make sure everyone's needs are met. In this particular case, the CDC provides businesses with tips for dealing with vaccination in the workplace. Companies are encouraged to require easy access to allow staffers to receive their vaccination and be flexible with schedules; non-punitive sick leave options are recommended for those who end up developing symptoms. The agency even provides tips about how to spread vaccine positivity among the workplace.
It may take some time before things are fully back to "normal" as we know it, but until then, take care of yourself and always speak to a medical professional if you have questions.
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