HRE’s number of the day: growing vaccine mandates

A significant number of employers have a COVID vaccine requirement in place or are considering it. Here’s what that means for HR leaders.
By: | October 6, 2021

More than half of employers already have a COVID-19 vaccine mandate or are strongly considering one, according to a survey from insurance broker McGriff. The survey of 315 employers—which was conducted Sept. 1 before President Biden announced his plan requiring private employers with 100 or more employees to mandate that their employees get the vaccine or undergo weekly COVID testing—reiterates that many employers were already leaning in the direction of vaccine mandates. In a previous survey in January, only 3% of employers told McGriff they were planning on a vaccine mandate.

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Related: Everything HR needs to know about Biden’s vaccine mandate

What it means for HR leaders

After many months of simply encouraging workers to get vaccinated, employers are getting aggressive with their plans. That’s due to a number of factors including the highly contagious Delta variant, soaring rates of cases, high medical claims and the FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine.

Related: 9 tips for telling workers about your new vaccine mandate

“When compared with what employers told us in January, I think the message is clear,” says Nick Pearce, manager of the McGriff employee benefits insights and analytics group. “Now that the vaccine has been proven safe and effective, many employers want to ensure the safety of their workforce and get back to doing business.”

Employers including United Airlines, Microsoft, Disney, Tyson Foods and more have announced vaccine requirements for employees.

Related: These employers are requiring COVID-19 vaccines

Companies still considering a mandate at the time of the Sept. 1 survey said that a significant increase in COVID-19 medical claims costs among unvaccinated employees would be the most likely reason to move forward with a mandate (36%). Thirty-five percent of employers said an increase in local COVID-19 infection rates and hospitalizations would be their No. 1 decision-making factor, and 31% said an outbreak in the workplace would be the top consideration in making their decision.

The findings of the number of employers turning to vaccine mandates for their employees is significant on its own. But that number will only grow in the coming weeks and months when Biden’s rule is issued and employers deal with new requirements.

Kathryn Mayer is HRE’s benefits editor and chair of the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. She has covered benefits for the better part of a decade, and her stories have won multiple awards, including a Jesse H. Neal Award and honors from the American Society of Business Publication Editors and the National Federation of Press Women. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Denver. She can be reached at kmayer@lrp.com.

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