70% of employers say they won't mandate COVID vaccinations: Willis Towers Watson

Employers are mulling vaccine requirements for certain workplace amenities, such as gyms and cafeterias, a new survey shows.

New data from Willis Towers Watson find relatively few employers overall are planning to mandate vaccinations in any capacity, with 72% saying they do not require vaccinations and they do not plan to.

Of those that do, 19% said they are considering extending a mandate for access to office gyms, cafeterias and other amenities. More than half (56%) of those requiring vaccines said they would require documented proof of vaccination.

While relatively few employers are planning to mandate vaccines, 86% of 600 surveyed firms said they're planning to offer scheduling flexibility to encourage workers to get vaccinated. In addition, 82% said they are communicating with workers about the value of vaccines.

RELATED: Pandemic accelerating employers' interest in voluntary benefits: WTW survey

Jeff Levin-Scherz, M.D., population health leader at WTW, told Fierce Healthcare that employers in non-healthcare industries have been hesitant to mandate vaccinations, as the impact can potentially backfire.

He said the mandate could drive people who were on the fence to choose not to get vaccinated and could strengthen their opposition.

"Once people have made a decision and declared they're against it, it's very hard to change their minds," Levin-Scherz said.

In lieu of mandates, 62% of employers surveyed said they're intending to offer paid time off for people to get their vaccines or if they experience any symptoms in the days immediately following the shot. More than half (58%) said they are considering additional leave for workers who may experience the negative reactions to the vaccine.

Just over half of employers surveyed (52%) said they would require vaccinated workers to wear masks indoors. Levin-Scherz said that the survey results, which were gathered May 19-28, are likely to continue to evolve as the pandemic situation does.

He said people have been used to wearing masks for more than a year, so getting in the habit of taking them off takes time. He said it's likely these results could be different even a month from now.

"It takes a little while to feel comfortable," he said.