Can employers make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory?

Editor’s note: This article was written from an American perspective, and while relevant to other territories in part, should not be taken as whole for other territories with alternate legal, health, religious and other considerations.

Can employers make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory?

US President-elect Joe Biden receiving his coronavirus vaccine shot yesterday, December 21.

Yes, with some exceptions.

Experts say employers can require employees to take safety measures, including vaccination. That doesn’t necessarily mean you would get fired if you refuse, but you might need to sign a waiver or agree to work under specific conditions to limit any risk you might pose to yourself or others.

“Employers generally have wide scope” to make rules for the workplace, said Dorit Reiss, a law professor who specialises in vaccine policies at the University of California Hastings College of the Law. “It’s their business.”

The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has allowed companies to mandate the flu and other vaccines, and has also indicated they can require COVID-19 vaccines.

Nurse Sandra Lindsay is inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine by Dr Michelle Chester.(AP: Mark Lennihan)

There are exceptions; for example, people can request exemptions for medical or religious reasons.

And even though employers can require vaccinations, there are reasons they might not want to.

Tracking compliance with mandatory vaccination would be an administrative burden, said Michelle S. Strowhiro, an employment adviser and lawyer at McDermott Will & Emery. Employers would also have to manage exemption requests — not to mention legal claims that might arise.

As a result, many employers will likely strongly encourage vaccination without requiring it, Strowhiro said.

–Associated Press