How to manage anti-vaxxers in the workplace

To jab or not to jab? That is the question

How to manage anti-vaxxers in the workplace

To jab or not to jab? That’s the issue on the minds of many employers across the world, as mandated vaccines grow in popularity. And while the majority of people seem to be on board with these policies, groups of anti-vaxxers are anything but compliant. Anti-vaxxers pose quite the dilemma – with many choosing to leave their jobs rather than get the jab. But this is nothing new. Vaccines have long been a contentious issue amongst the general population. Does any government have the right to tell a person what to put in their body? Even if it is for the general good?

No jab no job?

As more and more employers consider mandating the jab, HR leaders have been left in a tricky situation. How do you manage employees who simply refuse to have the vaccine? How do you listen to their concerns compassionately whilst also sticking by your own principles? HRD spoke with Kelly Davis, chief people officer at Sunwing, who talked us through the trials and tribulations of setting up a mandated vaccine scheme – and revealed how employees actually feel about ‘no jab, no job’ speak.

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“At Sunwing, we recently launched our own mandated vaccination policy,” Davis told HRD. “This is for all new and existing employees across our Canadian divisions. Vaccinations are the most effective tool at reducing the spread of COVID-19, and we want to do our part to help end this pandemic and protect our employees and those vacationing with us.”

Before making any policies, Davis spoke to Sunwing’s chief medical advisor who operates as an internal consultant. And, according to their employee survey results, 84% of Sunwing’s people were pro-vaccinations.

“Our mission is to ensure that our customers know they're going to be safe when they travel with us. Not only that, but if over 80% of our staff also agree with mandated vaccines then we need to address that.”

Rise of the anti-vaxxers

But, when it comes to vaccines, it’s not all smooth sailing. The anti-vax movement, whilst still relatively small, is certainly loud. Many activists take offense at being told what to do by their employer – citing human rights violations and civic codes.

A survey from Kings College London found that 33% of people believe those who disagree or discourage others to have the vaccine are selfish – with 41% viewing them as ‘stupid’. Despite this, 13% of people said they respect anti-vaxers. However, these are just personal opinions and shouldn’t hold sway when HR leaders are drafting policies. Still, it’s a sensitive issue – how do you listen with empathy whilst also trying to roll out contradictory programs? For Davis, she found that the key to collaboration in this was communication.

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Education programs

“As you can imagine, we came across some employees that weren’t happy,” added Davis. “However, I keep reminding our leaders that the data tells us it's only around 10% that’re dissatisfied. We built the policy to protect them and look after the other 90%.”

Sadly, because HR is the central policy maker in an organization, vaccine rules can sometimes come across as the ‘CHRO’s personal manifesto’. It’s not the case. As always, HR leaders have to act in the best interests of the majority – whilst also taking care to be polite, respectful, and tactile to those who may disagree. For employees who’re anti-vax, HR should sit down and conduct one-to-one meetings to help educate – after all, it’s only through conversations that people build bridges.

Counselling sessions

“I want to help all employees understand our motives here,” added Davis. “Our big focus as has been on providing education. We launched employee sessions all through the last year - each hosted by our chief medical advisor. We have a really great eLearning course on vaccinations too. Recently I said to our leaders that if an employee is really trying to make the decision on whether or not to be vaccinated, and they feel they don't have enough information, we should offer them a private session with our chief medical advisor. I want to make sure people don't feel like we're just rolling with the policies in black and white with no room for discussion. It’s my aim to get our people the necessary information and give them the education.”

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