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Employer Perspectives on COVID-19 Vaccinations Continue to Evolve

In January 2021 COVID-19 vaccines—still new at the time—began to gain traction, and business leaders turned their attention to what the growing availability might mean for their organizations and workforces. 

At the same time, the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) began its series of monthly surveys to track the evolution of leaders’ thinking and actions on the myriad considerations related to vaccinations for employees. The latest data from our April 2021 survey, Getting Employees Vaccinated, provides some insights into the evolution of employers’ perspectives. 

Leaders have become more decisive on policies

Our January blog, As COVID-19 Vaccines Roll Out, Business Leaders Aren’t Rushing to Require Them, noted that many business leaders were cautiously approaching decisions about vaccinations for employees. At the time, few were inclined to require their workers be vaccinated, and 48% of those surveyed said they were still debating policies on vaccinations.  

With Q1 2021 behind them, leaders have made more decisions on vaccine policies, including whether or not to create them at all. A third of those surveyed in April confirmed that they’d decided not to create a vaccination policy. 

Employer Vaccination Policies

Still plenty of encouragement, but few requirements for vaccinations

i4cp’s January research found only 5% of business leaders planning to require their workers to be vaccinated, though 68% planned to encourage employees to do so. By April, 75% of those surveyed said they already did or would encourage vaccinations, and only 9% required (or planned to require) the injections for all employees. 

Some employers who planned on requiring vaccinations for specific groups have relaxed their previous attitudes. At the start of the year, 14% of surveyed leaders said they’d require vaccinations of essential workers, and the same percentage confirmed vaccination requirements for non-employees (suppliers, vendors, customers, etc.) entering company workplaces. The April research found that requirements for those groups had dropped to 6% and 5%, respectively. 

At the same time, about one in four business leaders confirmed in April that they continue to adjust work or job requirements as needed (up slightly over the last month), and 77% say they require all employees who work on site to wear masks. About one in 10 (8%) require regular COVID-19 testing of employees who decline vaccination, but want to work onsite. 

Views vary on tracking / documenting vaccination status

In April, i4cp polled business leaders about a topic that is eliciting varied opinions among politicians and others. The survey asked employers if they were tracking, or planned to implement some means of verifying, the vaccination status of their employees. For the largest segment of respondents (34%), the answer was no, though some are collecting that data on a voluntary or self-reported basis. 

Companies continue to use incentives

As rates of vaccinations, particularly in the U.S., are slowing, many business leaders remain interested in using incentives to encourage their workforces to be vaccinated.  

Among the half-dozen types of incentives organizations use to encourage vaccinations, only one has significantly decreased over the course of the year’s first quarter: linking vaccinations to employee well-being programs with the aim of enabling workers who choose to be vaccinated to earn credits, points, or other awards linked to their employers’ wellness programs. At 29% in January, that incentive has seen implementation nearly halve to 15% in April. 

Vaccination Incentives

At the other end of the spectrum, awarding of paid time off for vaccinations—and in some companies, for recovery time, too—has more than tripled, from 17% in January to 54% in April. Partnerships with vaccination providers, such as healthcare and pharmacy professionals, has more than doubled over Q1, and onsite vaccinations at company health centers has doubled as well.

Notably, as the graph illustrates, offering cash, gift cards, or other remunerative incentives remains the least-chosen option for organizations. 

For a deeper dive into the latest vaccination data, see i4cp’s Getting Employees Vaccinated results.

Carol Morrison
Carol Morrison is a Senior Research Analyst and Associate Editor with the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp), specializing in workforce well-being research.