Many small businesses in the United States are not requiring their employees to test negative for the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) before they can return to work. These same small businesses have also refused to make getting the vaccine mandatory. This information is according to the Census Bureau’s Small Business Pulse Survey.
The Census Bureau conducted the survey from Feb. 15 to 21 and released the results on Feb. 28. It collected data from over 25,000 respondents with the goal of measuring how the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. has affected small businesses and if they have had to change the way they operate due to the virus. (Related: Experts worry vaccine passports may be discriminatory, but governments are moving ahead with them anyway.)
The survey found that, a whopping 70.1 percent of small businesses nationwide did not require a negative coronavirus test from their employees. Only 10 percent said they required a negative test while 19.9 percent answered that the question was not applicable to their situation because their business “did not have employees physically coming to work in the last week.”
When asked whether they would require their employees to show proof that they have received their coronavirus vaccinations, 78.4 percent of small businesses said they would not require it and only 2.2 percent said they would. The remaining 19.4 percent replied that the question was not applicable because employees did not come to work during the week of the survey.
There are also differences across sectors both when it comes to requiring a negative COVID-19 test and proof of vaccination.
In the healthcare industry, 4.9 percent of businesses required their employees to present proof of vaccination, which is the highest percentage across all business sectors covered by the survey. It is followed by the accommodation and food services sector at 2.4 percent, the construction sector at 2.3 percent and the information technology sector at 2.2 percent. The national average is 2.2 percent.
The healthcare industry also leads all other sectors in requiring employees to test negative for COVID-19 before physically coming to work, with 15.5 percent of businesses requiring a negative test result. This is followed by the accommodation and food services industry at 14.3 percent, the construction industry at 11.7 percent, the manufacturing industry at 11.3 percent, the retail industry at 10.2 percent and the utilities at 10.1 percent. The national average is 10 percent.
The results of the survey came as the country’s vaccination drive picked up speed and a third vaccine – made by Johnson & Johnson – had been given an emergency use authorization.
Johnson & Johnson has promised to ship nearly four million doses of the coronavirus vaccine to the U.S. during the first weekend of March. The company has promised to deliver about 16 million more by the end of the month and a total of 100 million by the end of June.
Many business owners still unsure whether to require coronavirus vaccinations for employees
Andrew Geller, a dentist, initially did not feel comfortable requiring his staff to get vaccinated because of his concerns regarding the available coronavirus vaccines. But he was convinced to require the shots after he did “extensive research.” Now, the 23 employees of Geller Family Dental must submit proof of vaccinations before they can return to work.
The process of requiring the vaccines involved coercing some of his employees who were uneasy about taking the vaccines.
“I did my best to ensure them that this was going to maintain the health and safety of their families,” said the dentist, whose practice is based in Bronxville, New York. “It took a little bit longer for some to make an appointment, but they did, thankfully.”
Many other businesses are allowing their employees to decide for themselves whether or not they get the vaccine.
Finally Restaurant Group, which operates 15 establishments in five states and is based in Bozeman, Montana, is providing all of its employees with information regarding the vaccines and time off for employees who want to get them, but isn’t mandating it.
“We’re letting them know what their options are, and they can make choices themselves,” said Ashley O’Bryan, Finally Restaurant Group’s director of human resources.
As more coronavirus vaccine doses become available, many business owners are deciding whether or not to require their workers to get the vaccine. If they decide to mandate the shots, they need to figure out how to deal with employees who use their rights to refuse the vaccines.
The survey found that, nationally, only around two percent of employers have required their workers to have proof of COVID-19 vaccination before physically coming to work.
Because of the format of the survey, it is not certain how many employers will end up requiring staffers to get the vaccine in the future. Many companies haven’t made a decision yet.
According to the guidelines published by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal agency that is meant to enforce civil rights laws and protect employees against workplace discrimination, business owners can require most of their workers to get vaccinations.
Employers cannot require inoculations for staffers who object under religious grounds and for workers who have medical conditions protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Workers covered by the ADA are also protected from being fired by employers, and owners must find what the law calls a “reasonable accommodation” to allow them to keep working.
Workers who are not covered by the ADA can be dismissed for refusing to get vaccinated.
“The employer has the latitude under the [EEOC guidelines] to keep the workplace safe,” said Jerry Maatman, an employment lawyer based in Chicago. But Maatman said employers should be cautious with dismissing workers over vaccinations due to the possibility of raising issues regarding their rights, as rightfully disgruntled former employees will likely take their concerns to court.
“These rulings are going to take place in the second and third quarters [of the year],” said Maatman.
Maatman is one of many legal and human resources workers who have spent the past few weeks advising businesses before employers decide to either discipline or outright dismiss employees over vaccinations. They have been issuing recommendations, including creating companywide policies and providing each staffer with a copy and explaining in detail why the bosses believe the inoculations are necessary.
Others are providing significant incentives to get vaccinations. Knead Hospitality & Design, a restaurant corporation based in Washington, D.C., is providing hourly employees four hours pay and salaried employees a day of paid time off if they get vaccinated. The company is refusing to mandate the vaccines.
“There are a lot of people out there who are vaccine hesitant for religious and ethical reasons,” said Knead Hospitality & Design co-founder Jason Berry. “I don’t think it’s our job to tell people how to live their life.”
Learn more about America’s vaccination program by reading the latest articles at Vaccines.news.
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