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Most Employers Plan to Require Vaccinations

Sep 7, 2021

A majority of US companies are planning to require employee vaccinations within the next four months, according to a survey of nearly 1000 employers. So far, about 22% of employers in the US have some form of vaccine requirement already, according to the study. 

Willis Towers Watson, a risk mitigation and liability consultant company, conducted the survey from August 18 through 25.  The company has more than 300 aviation specialists in 35 locations and advises airlines about reducing ground handling losses, improving safety practices and liability costs, and the impacts of COVID on the industry. 

With full General Use Authorization for the Pfizer vaccine,  an avalanche of private and public employers have created policies that require employee vaccinations. Within weeks of the FDA decision, dozens of large employers immediately began requiring vaccinations, with more than half of all employers in the nation (55%) expected to take action by the fourth quarter of this year. 

The dangers of a perpetual, lingering pandemic constitute a severe financial risk for airlines and other industries. Runaway COVID cases and hospitalizations are prompting a new round of travel restrictions for popular airline destinations, hampering the long-awaited recovery of airlines. These restrictions include new air travel limits at tourist hotspots like Hawaii, the Bahamas, Europe, Canada, and Mexico.

 In August, Delta CEO Ed Bastian told unvaccinated employees they would need to pay $2,400 in annual health insurance surcharges to help offset the monetary risk of employing them. According to Bastian, employee COVID-19 hospitalizations cost an airline an average of $57,000 each. With the highly transmissible Delta Variant, a single employee can infect dozens of coworkers, all of whom can miss up to a month or more of work. Companies with high numbers of unvaccinated workers are vulnerable to sudden, mass outages and crippling health care and liability costs. 

The survey found that a majority (52%) of employers are developing vaccination requirements they hope will be implemented soon, by the end of the year. These mandates could require vaccination proof to gain access to common areas such as breakrooms and cafeterias or comprehensive policies that require employees to stay current on their vaccinations as a condition of employment. 

Many of the 961 US-based companies that participated in the study indicated they are developing more than one vaccine requirement. Of the companies, 45% plan to require employees to provide proof of vaccination before returning to in-person work, and 34% say they will not hire or keep unvaccinated employees. An overwhelming majority, 79%, say that planned vaccine requirements will apply to all workers at the company. 

In all, the employers who responded to the survey employ 9.7 million workers. 

The pandemic has caused several additional burdens on employers beyond health care, employee absenteeism, loss of customers and predictable operations. More than two-thirds of employers (68%) have been forced to increase spending on communications programs designed to convince employees of the benefits and safety of vaccines, as well as how they can get vaccinated. Most employers (86%) absorb the majority of costs associated with COVID testing and 80% invest in contact tracing programs. 82% of respondents predict that COVID-related expenses will continue to threaten employee wellness over the next six months.

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