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More than half of US employers will implement COVID-19 vaccine mandates by end of year

This is more than double the number currently implemented.

Allie Nawrat

vaccine mandates US
Credit: SVETLANA G via Twenty20.

Unleash Your WorkforceHow will financial incentives supplement these vaccine mandates?

As COVID-19 cases continue to surge across the US – more than nine-fold since early July according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with the majority linked to the Delta variant that originated in India – a growing number of companies are mandating employee vaccinations before people return to the office.

Recent examples include Google, the Washington Post, Walmart and Goldman Sachs. The investment bank’s announcement is particularly interesting because it is one of the biggest critics of remote working, and was one of the earliest advocates of a return to the office.

According to research by Willis Towers Watson, 21% of US employers have currently implemented COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

However, there is no sign that we are nearing the end of vaccine requirements; in fact, Willis Towers Watson’s survey of 961 US employers employing almost 10 million people found that 52% of firms polled will have at least one COVID-19 vaccine mandate in place by the end of 2021.

Mandates that are currently and could be implemented range from requiring employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to access common areas, to requiring vaccines for certain sub-sets of employees with particular roles, and mandating all employees must be jabbed.

Talking about the findings, Willis Towers Watson population health leader Dr Jeff Levin-Scherz commented: “The [COVID-19] Delta variant has made employers take new actions to keep their workers — and workplaces — safe and healthy.

“We expect even more employers to institute vaccine mandates in the wake of FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine.”

In addition, Willis Towers Watson found that an increasing number of employers are considering tracking their employees’ COVID-19 vaccination status. 59% of those surveyed do this at present, but another 19% are planning to follow suit by the end of the year.

Of those currently doing so, 62% require an official proof of COVID-19 vaccination from the CDC, while 36% trust their employees to self-report.

Financial incentives

Willis Towers Watson’s research also found that more employers are considering offering financial incentives for employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

17% of employers surveyed offer financial incentives, and another 14% are considering doing so later this year.

The most common financial incentive on offer was a cash payment of between $100 and $199.

Dr. Levin-Scherz added: “We have reached a point in the pandemic where employers that have worked hard to make it easy for employees to get vaccinated are also considering approaches to make it more difficult for employees to remain unvaccinated.

“The one certainty right now is that employers will continue to adjust their plans through the remainder of 2021.

“All [employers] have one common goal in mind — to keep their workforce healthy and productive by minimizing the risk of spreading COVID-19 in the workplace.”

All of this comes in the context of the US lagging behind Europe – and particularly the UK – in its vaccine roll-out.

While the US has fully vaccinated 174.6 million or 52.6% of its total population against COVID-19, the European Union announced at the end of August that it had reached 70% of its population, and the UK has fully vaccinated 78.9% of its population.

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