HomeOpinion & AnalysisEmployers’ role in reducing vaccination hesitancy

Employers’ role in reducing vaccination hesitancy

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By Emmanuel Zvada

AS the COVID-19 vaccination programme continue, many employers may not be sure how to handle the issue of inoculation hesitancy and resistance. While some workers might be keen to get vaccinated, others may not. As the pandemic continues to ravage communities, employers have a central role to play in persuading employees to get inoculated.

Vaccination is crucial in controlling the pandemic and will expedite returning to full economic activity. Vaccines help in curbing the spread of the virus, preventing more deaths and economic disruption.

Employers can play an essential role by helping employees get vaccinated. Some companies are encouraging their workers to get vaccinated.

Will vaccination be mandatory?

There is no public announcement made on making vaccinations mandatory. In actual sense, no worker should be forced to be vaccinated as this could amount to a human rights violation.

However, employers can strongly encourage staff to get vaccinated.

Also, if unvaccinated staff continue to mix with those vaccinated, the latter will be at risk of getting sick from COVID-19.

The government has reduced its workforce to 25%, and priority was given to the vaccinated personnel.

It has also ordered that all civil servants be vaccinated and those that fall ill without having been vaccinated will not benefit from the COVID-19 insurance.

Handling employees’ concerns at workplaces

Misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines was awash on the internet, with claims of dangerous side-effects, surveillance and other conspiracy theories about the vaccine.

The rise in false information about vaccines has impacted on vaccination uptake.

l was once a victim of misinformation until I decided to take the bold step to be vaccinated.

Conspiracies can cause disturbances at the workplace, especially if employees are sharing misinformation or condemning employees who have chosen to be vaccinated. Establishing trust and providing credible sources of information may help stop the spread of conspiracy theories.

Keeping up-to-date with latest developments

One simple way employers can help ease the uncertainty around vaccines and stop the spread of misinformation is to stay abreast with current COVID-19 developments.

More so employers should be providing accurate information from established and reputable sources regarding vaccinations.

They should also be aware of the vaccine rollout as well as the places so that the employees can get the vaccine.

Employers should consult regularly with local healthcare officials and keep open communication with local authorities to stay up-to-date with information which benefits their employees.

Developing workplace vaccination policies

Employers have a responsibility for the health and safety of their employees, but is it their duty to enforce mandatory vaccination?

Developing (or updating) a policy on vaccination allows employers to outline the organisation’s stance on vaccination and explain the role of managers, HR and employees.

The reason for having a policy is to achieve the legitimate aim of staff health and safety.

The policy can help explain the benefits of vaccination and how employees can contribute to wider public health by protecting themselves and other employees and wider community by being vaccinated.

A vaccination policy can be part of the overall COVID-19 steps towards maximising the number of employees who  receive the jab.

Education and giving resources on vaccines

Employers can provide staff with education and resources on vaccines. They can host sessions explaining the safety of the vaccines and the vaccination process.

These information sessions explaining the safety of the vaccine can be useful in helping staff understand more clearly the vaccination process, thus helping in easing fear.

When employers are up-to-date and well-informed about the latest news on COVID-19 and vaccination, they can help reduce workers’ worries and uncertainty.

Employers can also consider using external trainers and e-learning tools to give workers insight on how vaccines help against the pandemic.

Can employers require employees to be vaccinated?

Employers, who operate a mandatory vaccination policy for employees may face legal challenge in all, but the most exceptional circumstances. Some employers may consider implementing a mandatory vaccination policy for their employees.

However, there are conflicting views on whether an employer can implement such a policy for COVID-19, as there is no legislation that directly deal with this situation.

Employers, who require employees to consent to vaccination or who take disciplinary action (including dismissal) as a result of an employee’s refusal, may face one or more of the following legal challenges.

If an employer has provided a lawful and reasonable direction for employees to be vaccinated and an employee refuses, the employer could ask the employee to provide evidence of the reason for their refusal.

What about evidence of being vaccinated

Directing an employee to provide evidence of a medical reason for refusing a vaccination is likely to raise privacy issues, if not done properly.

Where an employer wants to direct an employee to provide evidence, the employer should make sure that the requirement to provide evidence is lawful and reasonable.

As stated above, whether a directive would be lawful and reasonable depends on the circumstances. If it is unclear whether a directive or the employee’s refusal is reasonable, employers should not take disciplinary action, but should seek legal advice.

The time is now for employers to become part of the solution in ending the pandemic. By persuading employees within their organisations to get vaccinated, and helping them overcome vaccine hesitancy, employers are taking the right steps to end prejudices that continue to put the rest of the world in danger.

  • Emmanuel Zvada is an award-winning Most Fabulous Global HR practitioner 2020, HR disrupter and trusted coach. He writes here in his personal capacity.

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