05 May 2022

US employers split on Covid jabs, with just under half mandating vaccines, study finds

Littler survey shows percentage of employers requiring vaccination almost doubled since August

Person drawing Covid-19 vaccine from the vial into a needle


US employers are split on mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations for staff, with about four in 10 employers requiring jabs or regular Covid-19 testing, according to a new Littler study, though that was almost double the percentage of companies that had such a policy last August.

Littler’s 10th annual Employer Survey, which polled nearly 1,300 in-house lawyers, executives and HR professionals in the US, found that 41% of employers are mandating vaccination or testing, compared to 21% in August. However, more than half (56%) said they would only implement such a policy if it was required by law.

One reason for not mandating is fear of losing staff in a tight labour market: 85% of employers without vaccine mandates worry that introducing them would lead to employees quitting. An additional 65% also believe it would impact recruiting new staff. A lack of regulatory clarity has also created uncertainty for employers considering vaccine policies.

Devjani Mishra, co-leader of Littler’s vaccination working group, said: “Employers broadly recognise the potential benefits of increasing Covid-19 vaccination, but the lack of a uniform public policy approach and concerns about competition for talent leave many businesses without an easy way to get there.”

Despite the divergence on vaccine mandates, most employers share plans to get staff back to the office, with almost 70% of respondents having a formal return-to-office policy. Even so, almost all respondents (97%) said they already have or are considering offering flexible or remote work options to improve staff retention and attract new employees.

Barry Hartstein, co-chair of the firm’s equal employment opportunity and diversity practice group, said: “Employees have become comfortable with not coming into the office, and given the current labour market, they have substantial leverage in asserting their preferences.”

He added: “There’s plenty of opportunity for employers to retain the benefits of both remote and in-person work, but they must be transparent and communicative with their employees.”

Flexible and remote work options are also creating challenges around maintaining company culture, with 86% of respondents flagging it is an ongoing concern. Meantime, 68% of respondents said they have expanded paid sick leave policies over the past two years, with 65% reporting increased employee benefits costs due to the pandemic.

Other key concerns included changes in data privacy regulations, with almost two-thirds of respondents (63%) reporting difficulty tracking the diverse requirements imposed across the jurisdictions in which they operate.