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More than Half of Employees to Require Vaccines, New Survey Shows

More than Half of Employers to Require Vaccines, New Survey Shows

Dec. 1, 2021
A new survey from Willis Towers Watson also found that nearly all employers will offer testing (84%), most on a weekly basis (80%).

A survey, conducted Nov. 12-18 by Willis Towers Watson has found that the majority of U.S. employers, (57%) now require or are planning to require their employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

That statistic includes 18% that currently require vaccinations, 32% that plan to require vaccinations only if the OSHA's Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) takes effect, and 7% that plan to mandate vaccinations regardless of the ETS status. 

The various implications of this span a wide range. The survey showed that only 3% of employers who have a mandate are reporting an increase in resignations. However, 31% of the companies who are planning mandates are concerned that this causes employees to leave. 

On the other side of this concern, almost half of employers ( 48%) believe that vaccine mandates could help recruit and retain employees.

Workplace Testing

The ETS allows employers to offer weekly testing as an option to unvaccinated employees. The survey found that nearly all employers will offer testing (84%), most on a weekly basis (80%).

As far as who covers the cost, 25%)will require unvaccinated employees to pay for testing unless prohibited by state law.

Additionally, almost all employers (90%) require or plan to require masks to be worn indoors.

“Despite the current holding pattern pending the court rulings, we advise employers to proceed with plans to implement the mandate as well as other efforts to protect their workers,” said Jeff Levin-Scherz, M.D., population health leader, Willis Towers Watson. “Employers can encourage vaccinations and boosters with scheduling flexibility and time off, promote regular testing, stipulate mask wearing onsite to ensure employee health and safety — and support this with regular communications.”

New Normal

About three in 10 respondents (29%) say their organizations have already reached their “new normal” in terms of returning to the workplace and ending pandemic-related policies. Roughly the same amount (28%) say they don’t expect their organizations to reach the new normal until the third quarter of 2022 or later. Additionally, respondents report that 34% of employees are now working remotely. This is expected to drop to 27% in the first quarter of 2022.

Employers that have returned remote workers to the workplace report that public health recommendations (79%), state regulations and recommendations (74%), and business needs (71%) were considerations in their decisions.

“Employers continue to evaluate the best way to keep their workers, families and the community safe. With the risk of COVID-19 infection higher now than a month ago, some companies have delayed bringing employees back to the worksite,” said Dr. Levin-Scherz.

Other survey findings include:

  • Business travel: Half of respondents (50%) have pandemic restrictions in place for business travel. Among those, nearly two-thirds (65%) prohibit international travel, while 53% require approval for international travel. Roughly one-quarter (27%) prohibit domestic business travel.
  • Vaccination rates: Nearly one in five employers (19%) believe their employee vaccination rate is under 50%, and one-third (33%) believe 75% or more of employees are vaccinated.
  • Federal contractors: The majority (53%) of federal contractors report they will apply vaccine mandate rules for federal contractors to all workers at all locations.
  • COVID-19 testing: Employers continue to formulate their plans for testing. Among those that are offering or planning to offer testing, nearly half (47%) are either unsure or have not decided what type of testing to deploy, and 40% are either unsure or have not yet decided who would pay for testing.
  • Exemptions: Over half of respondents requiring or planning to require vaccinations will evaluate requests for medical exemptions (51%) and religious exemptions (58%) internally.