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In the race to vaccinate, the goal is clear – a return to normalcy – but the route to getting there is anything but. Employers are finding ways to get their workforces vaccinated as soon as possible, both for their employees’ safety and for the sake of their businesses.

 

A recent survey by Mercer found that employers in the Philippines are contemplating how best to get their workforce to roll up their sleeves. Should they make vaccination compulsory? If not, what can they do to encourage employees to get vaccinated? 

 

Few are wielding the stick 

 

Speculation that employers will require employees to get vaccinated has been making headlines around the world. But Philippine employers are certainly not rushing to mandate the vaccine. Only 2% of survey respondents have actually decided to implement a mandate, and 68% say they are not even considering it. When asked why they would not mandate, the top two reasons were employee concerns about vaccine safety (68%) and compliance with employment labor and human rights legislation (54%). Almost half (41%) also cited concerns about potential liability should an employee have a bad reaction to the vaccine, while 32% stated that they were aligned with the position of governments.

 

Mandating the COVID-19 vaccine

 

COVID-19 vaccination concerns

 

Are employers dangling carrots?

 

Offering incentives to workers to get their vaccine shots for Covid-19 may seem less controversial than a mandate but employers in the Philippines are on the fence about it.  Only 2% of respondents have decided to provide incentives in the form of cash, gift card, or spending account contribution in order to encourage employees to be vaccinated. 49% will definitely not provide a financial incentive, while 41% say it is yet to be determined. Given that the major issues surrounding the vaccination rollout are vaccine safety and human rights legislation, it’s not surprisingly that most respondents opted not to offer any form of incentive to respect their employees’ personal decision.

 

That said, a quarter of respondents say they will provide additional time off for employees to get vaccinated (26% for salaried employees and 23% for hourly) and about 15% will even provide additional sick leave in case employees experience side effects from the vaccine (14% for salaried employees, 15% for hourly).

 

 

 

The decision to receive the vaccine ultimately boils down to trust. And employers play a critical role in educating and sharing accurate information with employees, including facts about benefits of the vaccines, company policies and insurance coverage. Communication will be vital in helping employees decide whether or not to get the shot. 

 

In this regard, businesses in the Philippines are stepping up. More than two-thirds of respondents say they have or are developing communications plan. More than half of the respondents say they will encourage employees to get vaccinated, although only 17% say they will “strongly encourage”. 48% say they will only provide information and emphasize that vaccinations are a personal choice. Most respondents will provide facts about the benefits of the vaccine (93%), details about access (76%), insurance coverage or reimbursement approach (47%), and company policies (66%). 29% say they will share leadership vaccine experiences to help overcome vaccine hesitancy.

 

Only 13% of respondents have also begun discussions with public health officials, health plans or other vendors about facilitating the delivery and administration of the vaccine to employees, and another 72% plan to pursue this option once vaccines are more widely available.

 

Communication Plan

 

 

Managing through the vaccine roll-out

 

A quarter of the survey respondents have formed a steering committee or task force to help guide vaccine-related policies, and another 20% say it is in process. Managing a segmented workforce – some who have been vaccinated and some who have not – is a stated concern for 41% of respondents and will raise questions for most. For example, will employers require employees to be vaccinated before they resume business travel? 8% of respondents say they will enact business travel policies that differentiate between employees that have/have not been vaccinated, while 30% will not differentiate based on vaccination status and 26% will follow government guidelines

 

Classifying workforce based on vaccination status

Conditions that will require the vaccine

 

 

With the rollout of vaccination plans across many markets in Asia, 2021 started with a welcome dose of optimism. But given the complexity of mass vaccinations, new coronavirus strains and continued restrictions, there remain many difficult months ahead. As with the initial pandemic response, employers have a key role in providing guidance and support to employees at this critical juncture.

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Teng Alday,  Mercer’s CEO for The Philippines.

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