Why Biden vaccine mandate provides ‘cover’ for corporate America

President Biden’s push for companies with more than 100 employees to either require vaccines or conduct weekly testing may have been met with strong pushback after he announced it on Sept. 9, but many employers are quietly waiting for the new rule to take effect.

“No question that in regard to the mandate from the government, businesses need clarity,” said John Challenger, CEO of outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. “So if they can go to their employees and say the government is requiring us…it just makes it so much easier.”

In a recent survey, Challenger, Gray & Christmas noticed that fewer companies were mandating the vaccine in July compared to March. There was also a 32% increase in the number of companies refusing to mandate vaccines during the same time period, as employers perhaps tried to avoid the larger debate over vaccine mandates.

While more prominent companies such as Disney, Walmart, and Microsoft publicly announced vaccine mandates for office workers, many others have preferred to avoid setting a policy.

“They’re not taking any kind of stand,” says Challenger. When the Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule, estimated to impact roughly two-thirds of the private sector workforce, goes into effect, companies can simply say, “we’re just following the law, so that kind of cover will make it so much easier for companies to move forward and just not get caught up in one side or another here,” he added.

Jake Lawler, 29, receives his coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine as vaccine eligibility expands to anyone over the age of 16 at the Bradfield Community Center through Health Partners of Western Ohio in Lima, Ohio, U.S., March 29, 2021. REUTERS/Megan Jelinger TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Sixty-four percent of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of a vaccine and 55% are fully vaccinated. With many companies reporting hiring challenges, employers can’t afford to run the risk of losing people, says Challenger.

“They’re caught in the middle here in a very tight labor market,” says Challenger. “On both fronts they run the risk if they take stands that would seem to make sense to try to get your workers back to work at least some of the time, back in the office or to get vaccinated, they run the risk of losing people in a market where they can ill afford to lose anybody.”

Work experience, special skills… vaccination status

While many companies have been waiting for the federal government’s cue before mandating vaccines, some job seekers have put their vaccination status on their resumes and on their LinkedIn profiles to make it easier for everyone involved in the hiring process. Not only have hiring managers taken notice, but a third have said they automatically eliminate resumes that don’t disclose vaccination status, according to a survey conducted in August. Sixty-nine percent of hiring managers also said they were more likely to hire job seekers who had been vaccinated.

Putting vaccination statuses on resumes “certainly might help with employers who don’t want to go through the difficulty – if you are not vaccinated – of dealing with the issues that inevitably come up as they begin to enforce more vaccination on their employees,” says Challenger.

While Biden’s mandate would leave it up to employers to choose between vaccination mandates or weekly testing, Challenger says the latter can become a challenge for employers.

“The weekly testing is an issue. We don’t know whether those tests are going to be available,” he says. “They’re going to have to get downloaded or proof of that testing is going to have to be given to the company each week. So again, it makes for more risk to the company that it doesn’t get done properly.”

While many workers express their vaccination status on social media platforms such as Facebook or Twitter, Challenger warns against it because of the possibility that hiring managers may see those posts.

“It’s almost like making a political statement sometimes and you don’t know when you’re looking for work what the person on the opposite side of the desk is thinking,” says Challenger.

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