Vaccination requirements, some incentives could drive worker shortage up

NOW: Vaccination requirements, some incentives could drive worker shortage up

Employers struggle to find workers, despite a higher unemployment rate and experts suggest vaccination requirements and some incentives could play a role. 

“One of the concerns I’ve heard from business owners if they pose a requirement, is that they’ll lose employees who are on the fence or reluctant to get vaccinated,” St. Joseph County Deputy Health Officer Mark Fox said. 

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced that employers can require the vaccines, but as for whether or not an employer can require proof comes down to the state. 

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita announced public employers or institutions can require vaccination, but not proof. The announcement came after Rokita said Indiana University’s COVID-19 vaccine policy did not align with state law.  

Reasonable accommodations are expected to be made for people who really cannot get the vaccine, but that group is much smaller than many might think, according to Fox. 

“The bar on those can be fairly high,” Fox said. “There are relatively few, true medical contraindications, very few, you know, explicit or dogmatic religious objections as well.”  

That vaccination requirement alone can be enough for some employment seekers to look elsewhere, according to Fox. Fox said there can be some real consequences to imposing the requirement and it is something we have seen a lot in healthcare systems. 

“The concerns that I’ve heard from healthcare systems is that if they are on the leading edge—they’re the first health system to impose a requirement—then it may drive some of their employees away to the other health systems that don’t have a requirement yet,” Fox said. “They’ve been unwilling to assume the risk of losing employees to other health systems unless everyone’s on board at the same time.”  

Even some incentives could drive potential employees away, but Fox said it is all about finding the right motivator. 

“I think the reality is, we’ve got a significant number of people—probably 30-35% of people in our community who are not yet vaccinated…who could be motivated again, with the right driver,” Fox said. 

The right driver is up to the employer, but Fox said it can be a win-win situation for everyone, suggesting paid time to go to the appointment or even financial incentives if able, since the vaccine should be associated with decreased health care costs. 

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