Only 6% of employers plan to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory, a new survey shows.

The Littler COVID-19 Vaccine Employer Survey shows that while 43% of employers have not completely dismissed mandating vaccines, 48% have already decided they will not require them.

Source: Littler COVID-19 Vaccine Employer Survey.

Liability is among the concerns of the survey’s 1,800 respondents.

“Given the potential legal and administrative issues at play—for instance, exemptions or accommodations for employees with religious objections, pregnant or lactating workers, and those with disabilities that may prevent them from getting vaccinated—it’s unsurprising that 64% of respondents expressed concern around legal liability (if employees experience an adverse reaction to the vaccine) and that 57% questioned the effectiveness of a mandate given the number of potential exemptions,” the survey’s summary said.

The survey of in-house attorneys, HR professionals, and C-Suite executives was completed in early February.

It showed that less than 1% of companies currently mandate vaccinations for all employees.

Concerns

The biggest reported issue is resistance from employees who are not in a protected category but refuse to be vaccinated, a concern for 79% of respondents.

And the second top concern, at 67%, is the impact a mandate may have on company culture and employee morale.

“The concern was also widely captured in verbatim responses, many of which noted that a mandate would be perceived as an infringement of basic civil liberties,” the survey noted.

The biggest issue is resistance from employees who are not in a protected category but refuse to be vaccinated.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released guidance late last year indicating that employers, in general, can require that employees get vaccinated against COVID-19.

But the survey clearly shows that some employers are hesitant to mandate the shots.

There are problems from having only part of your workforce inoculated, including a potentially unsafe workplace.

Accommodations

That’s why 72% of respondents expressed some level of concern about providing reasonable on-site accommodations to those who have not been or refuse to be vaccinated, the survey showed.

“There is also widespread recognition that other policies—involving remote work, testing and more—will play a crucial role in providing safe workplaces,” the summary said.

Almost half (47%) said they would like to see local or state governments either mandate vaccinations or prohibit mandates to take the burden off employers. Thirty percent were opposed to government interference and 23% were undecided.

Mandate or not, nearly 90% of employers plan to encourage vaccinations.

Mandate or not, nearly 90% of employers plan to encourage vaccinations by providing employees with information including how and why to get vaccinated.

The survey also found that most respondents appear to be decoupling remote work policies from vaccinations.

Just 7% said they would bring back only vaccinated employees once vaccines are widely available, and only 6% said they would bring all employees back and keep unvaccinated employees separated from others.

Remote Work

Further, 49% are extending remote work at least into summer and 37% are allowing employees who want to work on-site to do so on a voluntary basis.

“It’s tempting to see vaccines as a cure-all for the extreme disruption wrought by COVID-19, but the reality is they are just one arrow in the quiver for employers,” said Devjani Mishra of Littler’s COVID-19 Task Force and Return to Work Team.

Despite vaccines, Mishra said employers must continue enforcing existing safety protocols, including wearing face masks and social distancing.

Despite vaccines, employers must continue enforcing existing safety protocols, including wearing face masks and social distancing.

“Especially in the transition period—when some workers are vaccinated, and others are not—organizations must remain hypervigilant in enforcing these policies as a matter of workplace safety while being mindful of employee morale.”

The survey showed that employers plan to maintain a wide range of coronavirus-related precautions with 81% continuing to encourage or require face masks, 66% maintaining distance between workers, 62% limiting or restricting employee contact in common areas, 56% continuing increased cleaning and disinfecting, and 50% taking employees’ temperature or using some other method of symptom screening.