Survey: Many employers rolling out vaccine mandates despite ongoing legal challenges

While the Biden administration's vaccine mandate remains in legal limbo, a new survey suggests many employers are rolling out such requirements anyway.

Willis Towers Watson surveyed nearly 550 employers in mid-November and found that 57% either currently require workers to be vaccinated or are planning to roll out such requirements. Eighteen percent of those surveyed currently require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

In addition, 32% said they were planning to roll out requirements if the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) emergency standard takes effect. The remaining 7% said they plan to require vaccinations regardless of what happens to the OSHA standard.

“Despite the current holding pattern pending the court rulings, we advise employers to proceed with plans to implement the mandate as well as other efforts to protect their workers,” said Jeff Levin-Scherz, M.D., population health leader at Willis Towers Watson, in a statement.

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“Employers can encourage vaccinations and boosters with scheduling flexibility and time off, promote regular testing, stipulate mask wearing onsite to ensure employee health and safety—and support this with regular communications," he said.

Just 3% of those who have rolled out vaccine mandates reported that the requirement caused a spike in resignations, though 31% of those planning mandates said they are very concerned the requirement could cause employees to leave.

However, close to half (48%) said they believe vaccine mandates could become a valuable tool for recruitment and retention.

The survey also found that employers are beginning to lose interest in financial incentives to push workers to get vaccinated. Only 2% of those surveyed said they had rolled out a premium surcharge for unvaccinated employees or a premium discount for people who did get the shot.

Three-quarters of those surveyed offer no financial incentives, and 14% have discontinued or plan to end their financial incentive programs.

Twenty-nine percent said they believe they have reached the "new normal" for their workplaces, and 28% said they don't expect to get to that point until the third quarter of 2022 or later.

“Employers continue to evaluate the best way to keep their workers, families and the community safe. With the risk of COVID-19 infection higher now than a month ago, some companies have delayed bringing employees back to the worksite,” said Levin-Scherz.