Businesses have been divided over whether to mandate the Covid-19 vaccine for employees. While some companies, including large organizations such as United Airlines, have had a mandate in place for months, others were a bit surprised by a policy decision made a few weeks ago.
On September 9, President Joe Biden announced a new rule from the Department of Labor that, as of November 22, requires companies with 100 or more employees to ensure that each worker is fully vaccinated, or can show a negative Covid-19 test weekly. Employers will also have to give workers paid time off to get vaccinated or recover from any side effects of getting vaccinated. Employers that don't comply with the vaccine mandate or paid-time-off requirement can face fines of up to $14,000 per violation. That said, companies that previously didn't have any kind of mandate in place had to figure out a plan, and fast.
Just ask Ross Sapir, founder and CEO of Roadway Moving, a residential moving company in New York City that's landed on the Inc. 5000 in 2019 and 2021. Of his 400 employees, more than 300 of them are movers who obviously have to work in person and enter clients' homes, meaning safety is paramount. Before the mandate, Ross said he encouraged all employees to get vaccinated and required them to wear masks, socially distance, and get tested for Covid when exposed. Now, he says, having a government mandate has caused some tension among workers who don't want to get vaccinated.
"No matter how you flip it, that mandate is going to add friction between employers and employees," says Sapir. "It's taking away time from my employees being productive and stressing them out, either by getting that test every week or pushing them to get vaccinated. And some of them don't want to get vaccinated."
While roughly 85 percent of his staff is fully vaccinated, the last 15 percent have been somewhat resistant. Sapir says the vaccine standoff also made it difficult for him personally as a leader. "I don't believe in forcing people to do something against their beliefs. It could be sexuality, religious, or any other ways to exercise freedom, you know, and I don't want to force people." Sapir is also concerned about possibly losing employees to smaller companies that are exempt from the federal mandate, though few have left thus far.
Requiring workers to be vaccinated as a condition of employment is entirely legal, and many large companies--such as United Airlines, Tyson Foods, and Disney--have already done so. Employees at large companies who don't get vaccinated are required to get tested regularly, which can cost up to $150 per test. Sapir contacted a local medical office that does testing and vaccinations onsite, but it's not cheap.
Other businesses are embracing the mandate and are willing to take a stricter approach. Brady Bridges, owner of Reside Real Estate, a residential real estate firm in Fort Worth, Texas, says that for safety's sake, he imposed a deadline for employees to get vaccinated. "If any individual is not following the mandate, they may leave the workplace following standard terms," says Bridges. He also says the policy has had a huge impact on employees who were hesitant to get vaccinated, many of whom he says have now "made peace with the mandate."
Some other founders are finding that the mandate has helped solidify policies and prompted employees to get vaccinated. Sherry Morgan, the founder of content company Petsolino, says she's encouraging vaccinations even though the company has just under 100 employees. "They gradually agreed," she says, noting that the company offers a $50 payment to those who get the vaccine and a paid day off after the second shot.
"The process will still continue until I can say that we are a company that is 100 percent vaccinated," she says.