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How to Address Employee Anxiety About COVID-19 Vaccines


*This blog was updated on September 7, 2021.

Vaccine hesitancy is a major hurdle in the global effort to end the COVID-19 pandemic. Widespread misinformation has created anxiety and mistrust about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines.

COVID-19 vaccines are safe and critical to protect us from the virus. Doctors say after you are vaccinated, your chances of falling sick due to COVID-19 will be low, and the chances that you may get very sick or hospitalized will be extremely low. Emerging data, including a study from Scotland, shows that vaccinations reduce risk of hospitalization and severe illness.

As an employer, you can help counter vaccine misinformation with facts and encourage your staff to get vaccinated.

While some people may be delaying or refusing the vaccine based on misinformation, others may be unable to get vaccinated due to a prior medical condition.

When managing vaccinations in your workplace, you may want to devise different policies to accommodate both sets of concerns. In the first case, your aim is to educate and dispel fears. In the second, you’re trying to find ways to safely accommodate employees who can’t get vaccinated.

Are there any legal obligations I should be aware of?

Remember that you cannot force an employee to get vaccinated. Like the flu shot, the COVID-19 vaccine is a personal choice.

It is also your responsibility to ensure that workers who have refused the vaccine are not ostracized or bullied in the workplace.

Shaming or ridiculing vaccine hesitant staff won’t help you change their minds. It may affect their productivity and mental health and expose you to a human rights violation or a workplace harassment claim.

If you are considering a mandatory vaccination policy, assess whether it would be a reasonable requirement for your workplace. It is best to get legal advice before considering a mandatory vaccination policy.

What steps can I take to create awareness on the safety of vaccines?
Educate your staff about the vaccine

There are misconceptions among the public about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines. You could address such misbeliefs in your employee communications.

Share information from credible sources such as the WHO and Health Canada to rectify such perceptions.

You could also invite a health expert to give a Zoom talk on the vaccines. The talk could cover topics, such as how vaccines work, how the ones for COVID-19 were made, and the safety checks in place.

If you are a BrightHR customer, you can share our COVID-19 vaccine awareness e-course with your staff. The course will help your employees get answers to common and complex questions about the vaccination process.

Start a dialogue

Now that most provinces are ramping up their vaccine efforts, encourage your staff to book an appointment. You could hold weekly meetings to discuss updates and address any concerns your employees may have about vaccines.

Encourage your staff to consult their healthcare provider about their concerns. Guide them towards credible sources of information. Advise them to research before arriving at a decision.

Bring the benefits to life

Emphasize how vaccines are the first step in a return to the pre-pandemic normal. Being vaccinated will not only protect your staff from getting sick, but it’ll also prevent them from infecting their family, friends, and colleagues. It’ll allow them to have get-togethers and celebrations with their loved ones.

Most Canadian provinces now require proof of vaccination cards to allow access to non-essential services, such as dining at restaurants, availing of fitness and entertainment facilities, etc.

Create COVID-19 policies

If you have staff who can’t get vaccinated due to medical or religious reasons, you’ll need to accommodate them and offer alternative options. Remote work may be the most reasonable accommodation in such cases.

Whether you are permitting unvaccinated employees to work from home or creating a vaccination policy for your workplace, make sure you develop clear policies and share them with your teams. You may also want to review your policies according to evolving Public Health updates.

Lead by example

When you get the vaccine shot, share your experience with your employees to normalize the process of getting vaccinated. Encourage others in your company to do the same. This will help reduce any anxiety some workers may be experiencing and create positivity around the topic.

How to best manage vaccinations in the workplace?

If you’re a BrightHR customer, you’ll benefit from our new vaccination tracking feature called VaccTrak.

It saves you time and hassle by letting you update employee profiles to securely log who’s vaccinated. You can record the date of the first and second dose and proof of vaccination as well.

VaccTrak allows you to download regular reports so that you have the latest staff vaccination stats.

Do you need help creating health and safety policies for the pandemic?

Our experts can help you develop company policies as well as with any other HR, health and safety, or employment advice you need. See how we have helped other small and medium businesses get their business compliant with provincial legislation.