55% of US companies surveyed mandate vaccines, undecided on firing non-compliant employees

So what happens if employees refuse to comply? The report looked into what course of action companies are taking, if any.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2021
Survey: Many US companies undecided on firing unvaccinated employees
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55% of companies surveyed across the U.S. are requiring vaccinations but roughly a quarter are still undecided on firing non-compliant employees.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- More than 50 percent of companies surveyed across the U.S. are requiring vaccinations in the workplace, but roughly a quarter are still undecided on how to respond if employees don't comply.

A report compiled by Sequoia surveyed nearly 500 companies across the U.S. -- a majority of which are based in California -- to evaluate how COVID policies are being followed. Sequoia is a people investment company that helps businesses design programs that support employees.

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"We still wear masks," said Carla Supanich, Vice President at Astra, a rocket manufacturing company based in Alameda. "Temperature checks are required."

In September, Astra mandated vaccines for all employees ahead of the Biden administration's requirement.

On Wednesday, OSHA suspended enforcement of the federal mandate requiring companies with 100 or more employees be fully vaccinated or test for COVID-19 on a weekly basis. The announcement comes after a slew of legal battles across more than a dozen states - where lawsuits claim the mandate is "unconstitutional" and "an overreach of power."

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"We have heard a lot from businesses about these mandates," said Landon Hersch, Sequoia's Director of Software Solutions. "We know there are still some unanswered questions that are out there."

Hersch said the company published a study back in February about COVID vaccination policies and less than 20 percent indicated they planned to mandate vaccinations. Since then those figures have more than doubled. Sequoia's most recent survey of hundreds of companies, most based in California, found 55 percent currently require COVID vaccinations, 23 percent don't, and 11 percent are considering it.

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"A lot of businesses have changed their behaviors to adopt some of those mandates," said Hersch. "There are some strict fines for non-compliance."

But even with the federal requirement, Hersch says there's still a large portion of companies that haven't put a plan in place to handle those non-compliant.

For example, the survey asked companies if an employee refused to get a COVID vaccine for an approved reason, will that employee still be allowed to work remotely? The survey found, 57 percent of companies said yes, 3 percent said no, and 24 percent were still undecided.

"I think the most surprising part is the amount of companies still undecided on what to do when it comes to getting back to the office," said Hersch.

Tony Huie is the CEO of Bay Area tech startup Twingate. He says he's taking a more flexible approach since his company is fully remote.

RELATED: COVID vaccine refusal 10th highest reason for job cuts in 2021, report says

"We don't have hard mandates, but we encourage folks to get vaccinated," Huie said. "If you end up attending in-person events, you have to be vaccinated... it's a soft push."

Huie isn't collecting information on his employee's vaccination status, whereas other startups feel it's important to do so.

"It's OK to not get vaccinated, that's up to you, we just want to understand why," said Andrew Barrett Weiss, the Director of Workplace Experience at healthcare startup GoodRx.

"Any employees that come into the office or attend any gathering of three or more people are required to be vaccinated."

Weiss says the company will not accept a negative COVID test anymore.

So what happens if employees refuse to comply? The report looked into what course of action companies are taking, if any.

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According to the survey, 48 percent of companies are still undecided. Four percent would require a leave of absence, 15 percent would move to termination, and 20 percent would consider reassigning employees to a role that doesn't require being in the workplace.

"I think there's a lot of hesitation...the ebbs and flows, spikes in cases...companies are nervous to put a plan in place," said Hersch.

Supanich told ABC7 it feels like a rollercoaster.

"It definitely has," she said. "We're constantly preparing for what's next."

The next part of the ride for many employers - booster shots.

"When you have 300 people under one roof, we need to keep people safe as possible," said Supanich. "Booster shots are the next piece of our evolution."

A majority (63 percent) of the companies surveyed indicated they are not willing to give incentives for employees to receive the COVID vaccine. More than half also added they will not offer the vaccine on-site.

For a closer look at the survey, click here for the full report.

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