All Posts
February 25, 2022
Topic three

The Small Business Vaccine Dilemma

min read

Earlier this month, President Biden issued an executive order mandating that large companies require their employees to either get vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing. Roughly 100 million Americans, about two-thirds of all US workers, are affected by this mandate.

Although the federal mandate only applies to companies with 100 or more employees, it will likely have an impact on small businesses as well. After all, the goal of the mandate is to boost the economy and return the country to normalcy. Both of these are good news for small businesses.

In the wake of this announcement, small businesses are facing a vaccine dilemma. Should they also require vaccinations, potentially provoking employee ire? Or, should they continue to operate with a partially unvaccinated workforce, risking the health of their employees and customers?

Based on polling data and consumer trends, small businesses that require vaccinations or weekly testing will potentially see increased revenue and reduced COVID-related disruptions. From an economic standpoint, requiring vaccines may be in the best interest of your business.

According to legal experts, vaccine requirements are legal.

To address one common concern up front: legal experts largely agree that companies are legally permitted to require vaccinations for employees. Several lawsuits targeting employer-mandated vaccines have already been decided in favor of the employer, following Bridges v. Houston Methodist Hospital in Texas.

The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission adds that employers must “find alternative arrangements for employees unable to get vaccinated for medical reasons or because they have religious objections” (personal or political objections to the vaccine are not considered legal exceptions). Reasonable accommodations include periodic COVID-19 testing, wearing masks and social distancing, or working remotely if possible.

Most American workers are already vaccinated.

Employers considering a vaccine requirement might be surprised to learn that most of their employees are likely already vaccinated.

According to the CDC, 77% of Americans have received at least one shot. The rate varies widely from state to state, with Hawaii leading the pack (90% of adults have received at least one dose) and West Virginia trailing at only 57%. A recent NPR poll shows that only 19% of Americans refuse to get the vaccine, down 5% since July.

Recent polls have found that the majority of Americans support vaccine requirements, despite the flurry of outrage following President Biden’s announcement. A Morning Consult poll found that 59% of people support corporate vaccine requirements while only 34% oppose them. The majority of employed Americans (including a majority of blue-collar workers and hourly workers) also said they support vaccine requirements for in-person work at their companies.

Continually rising vaccination rates prove that the general public is feeling much more confident about vaccine safety. For employees who are not staunchly opposed to the vaccine, their employer requiring vaccination (or weekly testing) might be a welcome nudge to finally get the jab.

Vaccine requirements may reduce disruption and increase revenue.

Small businesses are trying to walk a fine line, especially in industries already troubled by a labor shortage. Because of this, vaccine requirements might seem like an unnecessary risk — but they might also boost profits.

The most straightforward benefit of a fully vaccinated workforce is a safer workplace. Vaccines are safe and effective, proven by the Pfizer vaccine receiving full FDA approval. Vaccinated workers are far less likely to contract the virus or be hospitalized for it. They are also far less likely to spread COVID-19 to their family, customers, and the general public.

Moreover, COVID-19 outbreaks are costly and disruptive to business. When employees fall ill or have to quarantine for exposure to the virus, businesses suffer losses. Having a fully vaccinated workforce considerably mitigates that financial risk.

There are other economic benefits to vaccine requirements, too. According to a recent survey by Morning Consult, consumers are considering companies’ vaccine policies when making purchasing decisions. About one in three consumers are more likely to purchase from companies enforcing a vaccine mandate — almost triple the proportion of people who reported being less likely to purchase from such companies.

Similarly, roughly one in three consumers would consider boycotting a company for not enforcing a vaccine mandate. Data shows that groups most likely to feel this way are Baby Boomers, people making over $100,000 annually, and white-collar workers — key drivers of consumption during the ongoing economic expansion.

Employers shouldn’t underestimate the potential backlash.

On the other hand, small businesses risk alienating unvaccinated employees with a vaccine requirement. In industries experiencing a labor shortage right now, employers are especially worried that requiring vaccinations will provoke employee resignations.

They are right to be concerned. We’ve already seen instances of unvaccinated employees quitting over mandates, like when 153 workers left Houston Methodist Hospital due to vaccine requirements. A recent Post-ABC poll found that 72% of unvaccinated workers would consider quitting if their employer required vaccinations. Depending on how many employees are already vaccinated, this could be a sizable portion of a small business’s workforce.

Another complication: recent polling indicates that an equal percentage of workers are prepared to quit their job if a vaccine requirement is not enforced. This puts employers in a potentially precarious staffing situation.

Despite this, the actual risk that vaccine requirements pose to labor supply might not be as dire as many fear — especially considering that most US workers are already vaccinated. Some furloughed workers have also indicated willingness to return to work if the entire staff is vaccinated.

For employees strongly opposed to vaccines, employers might consider offering weekly testing instead. Though not quite as effective as vaccines, weekly testing for unvaccinated employees would bolster the robustness of the business to COVID-related disruptions by working to prevent outbreaks among staff and customers. This option may convince hesitant workers to remain with the business.

Some unvaccinated employees are worried about the safety of the vaccine. Others feel that employers shouldn’t tell them what to do with their bodies. Employers should listen to their workers and acknowledge these concerns, especially if resignations pose a considerable obstacle to maintaining a sufficiently large workforce. Ultimately, every small business owner will need to consider many factors before they make the choice that they feel is best for their business.

The bottom line

Vaccine requirements might help stabilize small businesses in a turbulent economy. These policies also may even increase profits. With health experts warning of a winter COVID surge, small businesses should consider requiring — or at least encouraging — their employees to get vaccinated or tested weekly. Doing so may very well be in the best interest of their bottom line.

While every business has the right to operate independently, the vaccination train seems to be leaving the station. Financially speaking, it might be best for employers to get on board.

Share this post
Share this post

Keep reading

All posts

Increased Minimum Wage Will Boost Florida’s Economy

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

min read

The Delta Effect

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

min read