.mployer Vaccination Plans Can Support Restaurants COVID-19 Recovery
By Gigi Acevedo-Parker
With demand for the COVID-19 vaccine far outstripping supply in Florida, and its 4.5 million seniors first in line, it may be awhile yet before the state’s restaurant workers get their turn.
Vaccinations will add a necessary layer of protection to employees and restaurant operations and be a factor in helping them keep their doors open during a tough business environment. That may be no small feat: Some 19% of Florida’s restaurants surveyed in November said they didn’t expect to last another six months.
As restaurant operators around the country wait for their workers’ turn in the vaccination line, it gives them a window for charting out employer vaccination plans. As we’re finding out, having a vaccine is one thing. Convincing people to get vaccinated is another.
It’s leading many employers to take extra measures to increase participation. For example, after only 1,000 of its 3,400 firefighters got vaccinated in the first week, the Los Angeles Fire Department started offering raffle prizes to boost the numbers. Trader Joe’s, Aldi and Dollar General are giving workers extra compensation for getting vaccinated. And some are mandating vaccinations, a trickier proposition given uneven supplies.
President Biden has pledged 100 million vaccinations in his administration’s first 100 days through increased vaccine production, a greater federal role in distribution, and additional and expanded vaccination centers.
That doesn’t offset the pivotal role employers need to play in supporting vaccination efforts through vaccination programs that build in incentives to help boost employee participation. Now is the time to start planning. Here’s a framework to start with.
The vaccination program goal: high numbers
The more workers that are inoculated, the better protected the workplace and the broader community will be. The vaccination program should incorporate the following:
- Strategies for countering employees’ concerns over vaccination risks.
- Tactics to reduce barriers to access.
- A comprehensive employee education/communications strategy.
- Measurement of the organization’s vaccination rates as part of its quality and risk management programs.
A variety of strategies can boost vaccination rates. Consistent education sends a strong signal to employees. Company leaders have a role in supporting the vaccination drive, and that starts with being among the first vaccinated. Access to vaccinations should be made easy. Removal of any cost barriers is one thing. but the convenience factor plays a role, too: vaccines should be administered at times and places convenient for employees – including outside of typical business hours, and during all work shifts.
If employees have non-medical reasons for refusing vaccination, require signed declinations. Do not ask prohibited medical questions. If medical or religious reasons are cited for the declination, human resources should become involved to try to work out a reasonable accommodation to avoid violating any number of federal laws, like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Should your program be voluntary or mandatory?
Voluntary vaccination in workplace settings often have poor outcomes. But mandated vaccinations have drawbacks, too, that employers need to consider. Among them:
- The liability risk to employers from possible side effects from the vaccine.
- Potential damage to workplace relationships, alongside diminished trust in the employer.
- A false sense of security so that leads employees to neglect other ways infection must be managed, like hand hygiene and self-isolation.
- Various federal laws might be violated.
Such drawbacks can have a serious impact on an organization, making a voluntary COVID-19 vaccination program the better option. Employers that go this route should be aware of and enforce rules that will help reduce their exposure and won’t trigger actions under the EEOC or ADA. For example, one option is to restrict where non-vaccinated employees can work.
Basics of a vaccination communications campaign
Employers that use a variety of approaches to inform workers will see the best results. Some of the most effective tactics:
- “Train-the-trainer” programs are a great way to educate while simultaneously creating broad, peer-based acceptance.
- Leadership should have a highly visible role in supporting vaccinations.
- Offer the vaccine free of charge to all eligible employees.
- Make shots available outside of typical business hours.
Florida’s restaurant community has been spared some of the worst effects of the coronavirus pandemic, but it’s not yet out of the woods. Employers’ readiness to step up during the vaccination phase will go a long way toward mitigating their workers’ risk of contracting COVID-19 and boosting public confidence over the safe environment.
About the authors:
Gigi Acevedo-Parker is National Practice Leader – Critical Risk Management, for global insurance brokerage Hub International. https://www.hubinternational.com/
She is a nurse executive with more than 30 years as a healthcare clinician, nursing leader, healthcare consultant and educator with a focus on healthcare risk mitigation and patient safety. Gigi has deep experience in many diverse aspects of risk management and compliance, including loss prevention and mitigation, patient safety and quality, claims and litigation management, corporate compliance and privacy.