Only 52% of Kevin Smith’s 400 employees have been vaccinated at his Massachusetts home health agency. Although he would like to have them all get the shot, he is unable to risk a mass exodus.

It is a valid fear. It’s a very tight labor market, with record numbers of job openings but not enough job applicants. According to KFF’s June survey, half of unvaccinated workers said that they would leave their job if their employer implemented a mandate.

Smith, who runs Best of Care, a family-owned business, said that it could lead to alienation of staff members, or even losing them to competitors. Smith has been running Best of Care since 2013. “No one can afford that. This is why employers in our industry are reluctant to impose a mandate.

Employers are facing a difficult situation due to the combination of the public health crisis and the labor market problem. The shortage of workers means that mandates from employers will not be able to raise the nation’s vaccine rate. Experts agree that a higher rate of vaccination is what we need to end the pandemic.

Finding workers is difficult

Employers have been advised by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that they can impose a vaccination mandate, provided that there are exemptions for employees who have health conditions that could pose a threat or legitimate religious objections.

Julia Pollak, chief economist at Ziprecruiter, stated that employers in labor shortage environments don’t want any barriers to employment.

It is not known how many employers are doing this. According to the Society of Human Resource Management, 29% of workers said that their employers require vaccines in June. Only 9% of those surveyed by Gartner at the end July did so.

Most employers do not have mandatory vaccine requirements for hospitals. The American Hospital Association stated that only 2,100 hospitals require vaccines, or about a third, of all hospitals. Many are located in areas where they are required by state laws and executive orders.

Brian Kropp, chief of research at consulting firm Gartner’s HR practice, says he believes that figure will remain a minority — even as household-name companies have begun implementing mandates in response to the Delta variant surge of Covid cases

These jobs are most popular at large tech companies like Google and Facebook or Wall Street banks like Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley. There’s one crucial difference: These employers offer highly-paid jobs, benefits, and other advantages that encourage workers to stay.

Employers who rely on hourly workers for most jobs have greater concerns about losing vaccine-hesitant workers and finding vaccinated workers.

Kropp stated, “If you own a restaurant or store and your employees are vaccine-reticent, they will quit and go to the next store or restaurant.” It’s much easier for people to change jobs in today’s labour market.

Even employers with stable workers are reluctant to enforce a vaccine mandate. United Airlines recently required all US employees to get vaccinated. However, American, Delta, and Southwest are yet to comply.


Partial rules and moral arguments that are ‘divisive’

Even employees who have been vaccinated are often opposed to mandates. In June’s KFF survey, 42% of those vaccinated said they didn’t want the mandate from their employer. Only 43% wanted it mandatory.

“Vaccine mandates tend to be very divisive,” stated Liz Hamel (Vice President and Director of Public Opinion and Survey Research at KFF). “There is a feeling that getting vaccinated is a personal decision.”

Attitudes may be changing with the recent surge in cases, however: Recent polls conducted by Axios/Ipos and Gallup found a slight majority of Americans favoring employer vaccine mandates. This is in contrast to KFF’s June survey which found that only 28% of Americans wanted an employer mandate, and 61% were against it.

According to the National Academy for State Health Policy, seven states have passed laws banning mandatory vaccines for employers. Similar legislation was introduced in 39 states, except for West Virginia, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada.

The differing regulations for blue-collar and white-collar employees is another complex issue. Major employers like Walmart and UPS require vaccines for corporate staff but not for employees who work in frontlines such as those driving trucks or working in stores.

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The companies would not comment on whether or not the labor crunch is driving the new rules.

UPS released a statement saying that “those office environments are very unlike our operating facilities which have been safely staff in-person from the beginning of the pandemic to this day,”

Some employers are following the lead of President Joe Biden’s order for federal workers, giving them the choice of vaccination or the more stringent testing and masking, said Amber Clayton, director of SHRM’s HR Knowledge Center.

She stated, “That’s probably the thing we’ll see more than full vaccine mandates.”