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Recruiting Employees vs. the Vaccine Mandate Debate

Recruiting Employees

Recruiting employees is as challenging as it’s ever been and it doesn’t appear to be letting up anytime soon. The pandemic-induced Great Resignation of American workers leveling-up their careers is coinciding with a final push of Baby Boomers leaving the workforce and a declining population to boot. New analysis from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows the labor force participation rate is projected to continue to trend down, declining from 61.7% in 2020 to 60.4% in 2030.

So what does that have to do with the vaccine debate? That sticking point has been chalked up to leadership preference for many companies but it’s fast becoming a critical factor when recruiting employees. In short, your companywide stance on mandating COVID-19 vaccines among employees could measurably affect your ability to recruit.

The Stickiness Of Requiring Vaccines

If your policy on requiring vaccines in the workplace hinges on the law, good luck sorting that out anytime soon (particularly in Texas). Presidential requirements are in direct opposition to Governor Greg Abbott’s. But then there’s also OSHA guidance and proposed standards—and, for some healthcare organizations, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services—regulations. SHRM’s How to Approach Federal and State Conflicts on Workplace Vaccine Mandates offers some guidance but, at the end of the day, your employment attorney will be your best real-time resource.

Can employers voluntarily require vaccinations? Yes, says Amy Beckstead of Beckstead Terry PLLC. However, she recommends that before mandating vaccines or asking for vaccine status at your workplace, be aware of current EEOC guidance. Vaccine mandates are still subject to reasonable accommodation provisions under the ADA and Title VII. Employers can also ask employees about vaccine status and require proof, but the information must be treated as confidential medical information.

“Managers should be trained on reasonable accommodation policies prior to rolling out mandatory vaccine policy,” Beckstead adds. NBC News offers a running list of large employers that are mandating the COVID-19 vaccine among their workers.

The HT Group fills roles in Temporary Staffing, Executive Search, Technical Recruiting, and Retained Search.

Mandate Alternatives

Nationwide, employers are going to some interesting lengths to push the vaccination issue with potential job candidates. found that 69% of hiring managers said they are more likely to hire someone who has already been vaccinated against Covid-19. What’s more, a surprising 33% of employers would automatically eliminate resumes that don’t include a Covid-19 vaccination status.

“In the current job market, it’s a shame that so many employers are willing to overlook candidates not even because they aren’t vaccinated, but because they simply failed to list their vaccination status on their resume,” points out The HT Group Founder and CEO Mark Turpin. “Making those knee-jerk judgment calls either way—whether they list their vaccination status when you didn’t ask for it or they didn’t list when you did ask for it—will obviously reduce your candidate pool significantly.”

From the standpoint of encouraging a vaccinated workforce while recruiting employees—and retaining the ones you already have—one tactic seems to work better than most: offering incentives. Austin ISD staff were offered $250 if they were fully vaccinated by October 15, 2021.  Amazon recently upped its incentives to include cars and $100,000 cash bonuses in sweepstakes among vaccinated employees.

There are also negative incentives: A September survey of 1,000 unvaccinated workers found that 43% would get the shot if the alternative was paying an extra monthly fee to stay on their company’s health insurance. Delta Airlines surcharges unvaccinated workers an extra $200 per month if they don’t qualify for a health-related or religious exemption. How’s it working? Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed said that an extra monthly fee for health insurance could coax them into receiving the vaccine.

Weighing Your Options

If you’re not federally mandated to require vaccinations, you have options. Turpin recommends weighing your requirements with the following factors:

  1. Are your employees frontline workers? Employers of healthcare, manufacturing, transportation, restaurant, hospitality, retail and other frontline workers not only have special circumstances but they also many face special requirements including OSHA standards. It’s important to find out what’s required of you before you decide on a path forward.
  2. Do your employees have the option of work-from-home (WFH) or other ways to reduce exposure? Allowing WFH or hybrid work schedules could eleviate vaccination requirement concerns but it has another recruiting benefit as well: A recent survey found that 54% of recruiters have had a candidate turn down an interview or job offer due to a lack of remote-work flexibility. 
  3. How does a mandate affect your bottom line and align with your corporate culture? If you haven’t already, put your department heads together and research your options. Do a risk assessment, survey employees, put together a communication plan to put a clear and positive spin on your decision (whatever that decision may be), figure out the cost and logistics of a mandate (testing for those who aren’t vaccinated, for instance), and investigate how the decision could interfere with recruiting employees. If you need guidance with your strategy in these areas, our advisors can help.

“There’s no one-size-fits-all answer,” Turpin says. “SHRM found that nearly 30% of employees will not get the vaccine, even if it costs them their jobs. The number of employees who feel the same about working for an employer that doesn’t mandate a vaccine could be about the same, depending on the job or industry. Our hope is that employers in most industries will continue to have the power to decide for themselves.”

The HT Group fills roles in Temporary Staffing, Executive Search, Technical Recruiting, and Retained Search.