Incentives for vaccination provided by the employer: finally some advice | Brooks pierce
The Commission for Equal Employment Opportunities (EEOC) has published Updated questions and answers on COVID-19 vaccinations today. The new directive clarifies several issues that made some employers reluctant to offer incentives to encourage employees to get vaccinated. They also provide insight for employers implementing immunization policies that differentiate between vaccinated and unvaccinated employees. Below are some of the highlights of the new directive:
- Employers can require that all employees physically entering the workplace be vaccinated, subject to making reasonable accommodations for disabilities and sincere religious beliefs.
- Examples of reasonable accommodations include the wearing of masks by unvaccinated people, social distancing, modified work schedules, periodic COVID-19 testing, teleworking or, as a last resort, accepting a reassignment.
- Employers who implement vaccination policies or require vaccination documentation should advise employees that they will consider accommodation requests on an individual basis.
- Employers should educate managers on how to recognize a request for accommodation and how to deal with the request.
- Employers can rely on the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to decide whether there is an effective accommodation that will not constitute undue hardship on the employer.
- Employers can offer incentives to employees to voluntarily provide proof of vaccination with no limit on the inducement as long as the vaccination is administered by someone independent of the employer (a pharmacy, health service, etc. ).
- Whether an incentive is offered to an employee to receive an employer-administered vaccine or to a person retained by the employer to provide the vaccine, there are different standards and considerations. For example, incentives should be limited so that they are not perceived as coercive.
- Employers are reminded to keep all vaccination information as confidential medical information once received.
While these guidelines clarify a lot about vaccination incentives and anti-discrimination laws implemented by the EEOC, there are other issues to consider before offering vaccination incentives. For example: what are the tax implications of the incentives? Will the incentive be viewed as a wellness program subject to additional rules and administrative complexity? Will it be considered an employee assistance program?