Offering rewards could leave employees feeling pressured
Are you struggling to convince your staff to get vaccinated? In the US, employers are now free to offer perks, such as cash bonuses or paid time off, to workers who choose to be immunised against COVID-19. However, companies must ensure the rewards in place aren’t used to coerce their staff, according to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Employers who are launching their own vaccination drive and administering the shots to their own employees “may offer incentives for employees to be vaccinated, as long as the incentives are not coercive,” the EEOC said in its latest guidance. “Because vaccinations require employees to answer pre-vaccination disability-related screening questions, a very large incentive could make employees feel pressured to disclose protected medical information.”
Read more: COVID rules affect your workers – even off the clock
Federal employment laws “do not prevent or limit employers from offering incentives to employees to voluntarily provide documentation or other confirmation of vaccination obtained from a third party (not the employer) in the community,” the commission said. But employers who choose to obtain vaccination information from their employees “must keep vaccination information confidential pursuant to the [Americans with Disabilities Act].”
Read more: Worker arrested for stealing COVID vaccination cards
The US currently lacks federal EEOC laws that prohibit making vaccinations mandatory. This essentially gives employers the leeway to require inoculation among staff members who must be physically present in the workplace. The caveat: “Employers comply with the reasonable accommodation provisions of the ADA and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other EEO considerations,” the commission said.
“Other laws, not in EEOC’s jurisdiction, may place additional restrictions on employers. From an EEO perspective, employers should keep in mind that because some individuals or demographic groups may face greater barriers to receiving a COVID-19 vaccination than others, some employees may be more likely to be negatively impacted by a vaccination requirement.”