How Employers Are Educating Employees About Getting Vaccinated

Employers are providing information about the vaccine and how to get it

Stephen Miller, CEBS By Stephen Miller, CEBS April 5, 2021
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Employers are taking steps to make vaccines more accessible to their employees and to encourage them to get inoculated, new research shows.

The Emerging Trends in Health Care Survey, conducted in February through early March by consultancy Willis Towers Watson, found that 80 percent of large U.S. employers say vaccinating their workforce will allow employees to return to the workplace, but relatively few employers (10 percent) believe vaccination should be mandatory.

A total of 446 large companies, employing 6.3 million workers collectively, participated in the survey.

"Employers understand that by taking an active part in supporting the vaccination of employees, they can play a crucial role in ending the pandemic," said Jeff Levin-Scherz, population health leader at Willis Towers Watson. "A common strategy for employers is to make vaccines an easy choice for employees by first helping convince them to get the vaccine, and then making it easy for them to do so."

The survey identified actions employers are taking to encourage employee vaccination, as highlighted below.

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Among those employers offering vaccination incentives, 39 percent are providing extra leave or vacation time to get vaccinated, while 10 percent are offering cash or other financial incentives.

"Employers are eager to improve vaccination rates, contain any further spread of the virus and bring employees back to work," said Chantell Sell Reagan, national pharmacy community clinical leader at Willis Towers Watson.

HR consultancy Mercer's 2020/2021 US Coronavirus Business Impact Survey, which as of January 2021 is being automatically updated online with more than 700 responses to date from U.S. employers of all sizes, also asked about providing paid time off (PTO) to get vaccinated, with over half of respondents planning to offer hourly workers additional PTO to do so. Just over 30 percent would support the delivery of the vaccine at their worksite, such as through a temporary vaccination clinic, if this were possible.

Educate and Communicate

In early March, the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions, a nonprofit network of business coalitions focused on improving health care value, asked 151 U.S. employers from various industries and of different sizes about their efforts to support employees in taking the COVID-19 vaccines. Key findings, as reported in the alliance's Pulse of the Purchaser 2021-2023 survey report, include those shown below.

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In addition, more than half of large employers—with 5,000 or more employees—anticipate providing onsite COVID-19 vaccines before the year is up with government approval (for instance, as a point of distribution site). Thirty percent of employers with fewer than 1,000 employees hope to do so as well.

Large employers should consider onsite vaccination programs, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in recent guidance. The CDC didn't recommend onsite vaccination programs for small or midsize employers, saying they should encourage offsite vaccination.

The alliance found that few employers (8 percent) anticipate mandating the vaccine for employees, and the figure rises to only 10 percent when employers were asked if they would mandate the vaccine for employees whose jobs put them at higher risk of exposure to the coronavirus.

Sharing Information

Regarding companies planning communications around vaccinations, Mercer's survey found that over 80 percent will encourage or strongly encourage employees to receive the vaccine. They will do so by including a variety of resources in their employee communications, as shown below.

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In your communications, highlight the benefits of getting vaccinated, said Elena Charleston, a communications consultant at Segal Benz, a benefits communication firm based in San Francisco. "Speak to the safety and efficacy of the available vaccines," she advised. "Let your people know that the vaccines have been clinically evaluated and tested, and that they have met the FDA's statutory criteria for emergency use authorization. Stress that getting vaccinated outweighs the alternative of becoming ill and succumbing to COVID-19, which is a serious, life-threatening disease."

Employers also should consider appointing "vaccination ambassadors" to make workers more likely to get the COVID-19 vaccine, and hold virtual town halls where leadership, respected local medical experts and staff share their COVID-19 vaccine experiences and answer audience questions, recommends the CDC.

Given vaccination expectations, "employers are working to get back to normal operations, which most expect by the third quarter of 2021," said Michael Thompson, president and CEO of the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions.

Related SHRM Articles:

CDC Recommends Employer Steps to Increase Vaccine Acceptance, SHRM Online, April 2021

CDC Provides Guidance on Employers' Onsite Vaccination, SHRM Online, March 2021

For CFOs, COVID-19 Employee Vaccinations Are Complicated, SHRM Online, March 2021

Do Employers Have to Pay for Time Off to Get Vaccinated?, SHRM Online, March 2021

Workers' Vaccination Fears Pose Businesses Challenges, SHRM Survey Finds, SHRM Online, February 2021


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