Employers overwhelmingly have decided to use incentives to encourage employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 rather than enforcing a mandate, a survey conducted by law firm Littler Mendelson found.

Of the more than 1,800 respondents, only 0.5 percent said they will impose a vaccine mandate within their workplace, although 90 percent said they plan to encourage it through providing educational resources, on-site vaccination programs, extra paid time off or other financial incentives. 

Forty-three percent of employers in the survey said they had not yet decided whether to impose a mandate, and 47 percent said they would like to see the decision to be made by state or local governments, according to the report. 

Companies probed included a wide range of industries and sizes, according to Nashville-based Littler attorney Michael Moschel, and the surveys were filled out by company executives, in-house counsel or human resource professionals. 

“It’s a reflection on the businesses’ styles of employee relations and that employers don’t want to be seen as infringing upon their workers and their employees' civil liberties,” he said. 

Company leadership teams feared imposing a mandate would disrupt company culture or result in legal backlash if an employee experienced any adverse reactions. Nearly 57 percent of respondents questioned the effectiveness of a mandate in general, according to the report, given the number of potential exemptions. 

“They don’t intend to mandate the vaccine mostly because of concerns with employee happiness and cultural concerns,” Moschel said. “But they are going to do a lot of encouraging and implementing of plans to encourage folks to get the vaccine.”

Management teams are now considering what kind of accommodations to make for people who refuse or are not eligible to receive a vaccine, including mandating mask use or a continued work-from-home schedule. 

For essential workers, Moschel says social distancing and sanitation stations will likely become commonplace so that employers don’t face a slimmed workforce due to either quarantine procedures or people falling ill. In the face of absenteeism through the pandemic, some facilities have already replaced positions that require workers to be in close quarters with robots — who can’t get sick — he said. 

This post originally appeared in our partner publication, the Nashville Post

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