Should You Implement Employee Vaccine Tracking or Negative Test Requirements in Your Office?
As we’ve all experienced, even though COVID-19 vaccinations have allowed us to begin returning to our new normal, they have also created challenges in the workplace. Namely, the issue of whether or not to implement a mandatory workplace policy.
Companies have struggled trying to balance the health and safety of the workplace with their team’s desires and ensure secure tracking of health data.
And today, more than a year after vaccines first became available, questions and controversy around vaccinations in the workplace abound—especially as COVID cases continue to rise due to new variants.
Does your office need to implement vaccine tracking?
Broadly speaking, most businesses are not legally required to track vaccination status, and doing so is at your company's discretion.
As part of his September 2021 Path Out of the Pandemic plan, President Biden debuted a mandatory vaccine-or-weekly-testing rule for employers with 100 or more employees. His plan also included mandates for federal workers and federal contractors.
As part of his plan, employers would be required to ensure vaccination status of employees or verify negative test results on a weekly basis.
Employers would also have been responsible for ensuring non-vaccinated employees wore masks in the workplace, and would have been required to provide PTO to employees getting vaccinated or feeling ill after the shots.
Legal challenges began immediately, and in December 2021, a federal judge blocked the mandate for federal contractors. Around this same time, the Supreme Court announced it would hear arguments on the large employee rule in January 2022.
On January 13, 2022 the Supreme Court blocked President Biden’s large employer mandate, however, the Court upheld President Biden’s vaccination mandate for healthcare workers of institutions receiving federal funding.
Just about a week later, a federal judge in Texas blocked President Biden’s federal employee vaccine requirement.
As of today, most employers are not required by law to ensure vaccination status of employees—but many are still choosing too.
Although not required to do so by law, private employers are free to require employees to be vaccinated before physically entering the workplace. What’s more, surveys show employees prefer mandatory vaccination policies as a prerequisite for returning to the office.
Survey employees to get a pulse on team sentiment
The best workplace vaccination policy is the one that balances the health and safety needs of the workplace with the wishes of employees.
Before deciding whether or not to track employee vaccination status or test results, it’s important to talk to your team.
Work has changed immensely in the last two years, and today, there’s an expectation from employees that certain workplace decisions will be made with their input. This is true of conversations around returning to work, flexibility of employee location, and workplace vaccine policies.
Employers are under great pressure to accommodate reasonable employee requests. The latter half of 2021 saw more Americans voluntarily leave their jobs than ever before, and employers are working double time to keep their current workforce happy and engaged.
Make your team members a part of the employee vaccine tracking conversation by requesting their input. Consider surveying employees to collect anonymous feedback from your team members before taking a hard stance one way or another with mandatory vaccination or testing policies.
The best surveys will include a mix of yes/no and open response questions. That way, you can ask about preferences around vaccine or test result tracking, but also inquire about concerns and ask for feedback.
Employee vaccine tracking or negative test result tracking?
Position both to employees and gauge their comfort level between the two. Some individuals cite concerns about sharing vaccination status with their employers, as they view it as medical information and therefore confidential.
While the EEOC has explicitly stated it is fully legal and constitutional to require vaccinations and request proof of employee vaccination status information from employees, concern remains for some employees.
Tracking negative test results may help employees feel more comfortable, but undoubtedly creates more administrative work, as HR team members would be on the hook to collect and file this information on a weekly basis. Tracking vaccination status is arguably easier, since employees must only submit proof of vaccination once they become fully vaccinated and then to show they’ve been boosted.
Additionally, a vaccine tracking software serves as a centralized digital warehouse. With a single location from which to store, track, and manage employee health data, vaccine tracking software makes it easy to stay current with current and forthcoming compliance requirements. In the case of a compliance audit or legal challenges, using a tool to track vaccination status helps protect businesses by serving as a one-stop-shop for all the employee vaccination data.
Use a tool to streamline the process
HR team members, office managers, and operations professionals are already mired in administrative tasks. Manually tracking employee vaccination statuses or test results is time consuming and inefficient. What’s more, manual submission is cumbersome for employees, too, and likely to lead to compliance issues.
Digital is the best practice method for tracking vaccination statuses, as it offers secure data storage, reduces manual labor and margin for error, and ensures only the appropriate parties have access to this information. Vaccine tracking software also serves as a central repository from which to manage all employee exemptions, like those granted to individuals on the basis of religious belief or a disability.
The best vaccine tracking softwares allows employees to self-report. This further reduces the administrative load on HR and enforces compliance. Instead of sending important health documentation back and forth via less secure methods, employees can upload an image of their vaccination card or test results, and your HR or People Operations team can quickly approve or deny documents.
Streamlining the process with a tool (like Eden Workplace’s COVID team safety product) will make it easy to submit, collect, and record employee vaccination statuses. It also makes it easier to enforce company policies or support compliance on a broader level. To learn more about why we built this tool (and how it solved our own pain points around vaccine tracking and going hybrid), check out this article on why we built employee vaccine tracking software.
Establishing COVID safety processes helps keep your team safe
It’s unlikely that the controversy around COVID vaccines will subside anytime soon, and it can be hard to know what decision to make for your company. But, it’s best to keep communication lines open with your team to understand their wishes and concerns around keeping the workplace safe for all.
And for companies that have opted for a mandatory vaccination or routine testing policy, consider investing in a tracking tool that can streamline the process for administrators and employees.