Vaccines are critical to ending the COVID-19 pandemic. But widespread misinformation about the vaccines has added to the challenge of immunizing as many people as possible against the deadly virus.
To provide a safe workplace for your staff and customers, you should encourage vaccinations. However, in doing so, you are likely to encounter vaccine misinformation, and – as a result of it – vaccine hesitancy.
What is vaccine misinformation?
Incorrect information based on hearsay or from unverified sources online about vaccine safety, side effects, efficacy, is vaccine misinformation.
Not only is such information false, but it is also dangerous. It may mislead people into rejecting the only scientifically proven and available protection against a deadly virus that killed 3 million people across the world in 2020.
What steps should I take if an employee is actively spreading vaccine misinformation in the workplace?
If you find out that an employee is sharing vaccine misinformation, you should:
Talk to the employee
Chances are their intent is not malicious. They may actually believe what they are saying and are afraid to get the shot because of it. Hear them out patiently. Avoid being sarcastic or rude.
Apprise them of the facts
Counter their vaccine myths with facts. COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective at reducing the risk of hospitalization and severe illness. Direct such employees to trusted and credible sources of information for COVID-19 vaccines, such as Health Canada, the World Health Organization, and your provincial government websites (Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia).
Offer further support
Ask them if they’d like to speak to senior employees who have chosen to get vaccinated about their experience. Or if they’d prefer to put their questions and doubts before a medical health professional.
Explain how misinformation harms work environment
Help them understand how false information about vaccines may create unnecessary fear and anxiety in the workplace. It may mislead others into making a critical health choice based on lies.
Make it clear you want them to stop
Let them know that they can approach you with any questions they have on vaccines. But make it clear that you want them to stop sharing unproven theories or hearsay on vaccines in the workplace. Vaccine misinformation is harmful to workplace health and safety. Inform them that continuing such behavior may lead to disciplinary action.
How can I help reduce vaccine hesitancy in the workplace?
We recommend that you:
Lead by example
Get vaccinated. Share your experience with your employees to encourage them to do the same.
Educate your staff about the vaccine
You could start by sharing data on the safety and effectiveness of vaccines in your employee communications. Remember to share information from credible sources. Consider holding virtual townhalls or Q&A sessions to answer common questions on vaccines that your staff may have.
You could also invite a health expert to give a talk on the safety of mRNA vaccines and how they are developed. If you are a BrightHR customer, share our COVID-19 vaccine awareness e-course with your employees.
Highlight the benefits of being vaccinated
Point out to them how vaccines are essential to returning to a pre-pandemic normal. Being fully vaccinated will protect your staff from getting serious illness and also protect their family, friends, and colleagues. It’ll also allow them to attend concerts, sporting events, eat out, go to movies, travel with fewer restrictions and a lot less stress.
Inform staff about available support
Let your employees know they won’t lose wages if they take time off work for a vaccine appointment. Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia offer paid vaccination leave for getting the shot. Ontario and BC also offer three days of paid sick leave for reasons related to COVID-19. In case your employees experience any vaccine side-effects, they’ll be able to take paid time off.
Should I develop a vaccination policy for my workplace?
Yes. A vaccination policy will help clarify the company’s stance on vaccinations. It should cover areas such as:
- Requirement for proof of vaccination
- Workplace accommodations for unvaccinated staff, and medical and religious exemptions
- Provisions such as paid sick leave and paid time off to get vaccinated
- How the employer will secure staff personal health information in accordance with applicable privacy laws
- Employee obligations on observing workplace health and safety measures
- Details of any vaccine incentives offered, such as gift vouchers or company swag.
- Contact person in the company for more information on the policy or to request accommodation.
What about a mandatory vaccination policy?
You should assess whether a mandatory vaccination policy would be a reasonable requirement for your workplace. For instance, if the nature of your business allows for accommodations such as working from home, a mandatory vaccination policy may not be justified.
It is best to get legal advice before considering a mandatory vaccination policy.
What are the rules around accommodating vaccine exemptions?
Under human rights legislation in Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia, employers are required to grant accommodations based on the protected grounds of disability and religious belief/creed.
People with certain medical conditions or disabilities may not be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine as it could adversely affect them. Similarly, some people may be unable to get vaccinated due to religious beliefs.
While such cases are likely to be rare, employers should accommodate them to the point of undue hardship.
The option to work from home may be the most reasonable accommodation for such employees.
For religious exemptions, it may be a good practice to ask the employee to submit a commissioned affidavit that details their religion and why it prohibits vaccination. Biases against vaccines do not qualify as creed or religious beliefs and don’t have to be accommodated.
Should I opt for rapid testing in the workplace?
Rapid testing is a helpful screening tool to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks in the workplace. But it must be used in addition to other infection prevention and control measures.
Rapid tests are safe and easy to carry out. Since they only require a nasal swab collection, they quickly help identify people who may be asymptomatic carriers.
The federal and some provincial governments are providing free rapid tests to eligible businesses and organizations. You can get more details on the provincial government rapid testing programs here: Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia.
Are there any digital tools to make workplace vaccine management simpler?
At Peninsula, we help our clients simplify day-to-day HR operations with an online software called BrightHR.
It streamlines a variety of tasks, including clocking attendance, requesting time off, preparing staff schedules, tracking overtime.
BrightHR also makes staff vaccine management quick and easy with its VaccTrak feature.
VaccTrak assists employers in securely tracking the progress of vaccinations in their workplace. With VaccTrak you can:
- Update employee profiles online with vaccination status information
- Download reports on latest staff vaccination stats.
- Issue exclusive VaccTrak e-passes to fully vaccinated staff
- Access our COVID-19 vaccine e-awareness course.
- Use VaccTrak on the BrightHR iOS and Android apps as well
- Enjoy unlimited cloud-based document storage
Need more information on workplace vaccine management?
Our experts can help you develop a vaccination policy as well as answer any questions you may have about workplace health and safety. To learn more about how our services can benefit your business, call us today at 1 (833) 247-3652.