As the U.S. ramps up coronavirus vaccinations, new national research finds that many U.S. workers (42 percent) indicate that their employer should wait to re-open until COVID-19 vaccines are more widely available to employees.
About one-quarter (26 percent) say employees should be required to take a COVID-19 test before entering the workplace, while 37 percent say testing should be encouraged.
A new national poll of working Americans from Eagle Hill Consulting also finds that 57 percent of survey respondents believe employers should offer vaccine incentives to employees. And, slightly above half (52 percent) agree that employers should require vaccines, up from 49 percent in December 2020. And, there is growing support among employees that employers should stay involved in some areas like requiring and encouraging masks, social distancing, COVID-19 testing and temperature checks at work.
These findings are contained in the 2021 Eagle Hill Consulting COVID-19 Vaccines and the Workplace Survey conducted by Ipsos from Feb 5-9, 2021. The survey included 1,006 respondents from a random sample of employees across the U.S. This survey follows similar polling conducted from December 4-8, 2020.
In terms of COVID testing, most (45 percent) say that employers should cover the costs for any employer-mandated tests. Twenty-nine percent say the federal government should bear the costs, while 15 percent say insurance providers or state/local government (10 percent) should pay for required tests. Only two percent agree employees should pay.
“The COVID-19 vaccine is slowly starting to reach some segments of the workforce, but the road ahead remains complicated for employers – from when to bring employees back to how to ensure safety,” says Melissa Jezior, Eagle Hill Consulting president and chief executive officer. “Our research shows many employees are reluctant to return to the workplace until vaccines are more prevalent, and more than half say financial or paid-time off incentives could encourage vaccinations.”
“We also found that employees remain split on employer vaccination requirements, but do want employers to require safe practices in the workplace,” Jezior added. “All of this means employers must engage with employees at a deep level to understand their views and align decisions with employee preferences. There will not be a one-size fits all approach, and it isn’t enough to just announce plans. Employers have to find the balance between ensuring a safe environment while not imposing requirements that will generate employee anxiety or animosity. That’s the last thing employers need as they try to return to some sense of normalcy for employees and customers.”
When asked about the role employers should play with COVID-19 precautions even after a vaccine is widely available, there was broad support for employer involvement.
- Regarding social distancing, 89 percent concur that employers should require or encourage social distancing. This is up from 85 percent in December 2020.
- Regarding masks, 87 percent agree on employers requiring or encouraging mask use. Support was at 85 percent in December 2020.
- For temperature checks at the workplace, 81 percent say employers should encourage or require temperature checks. This is up from 78 percent in December.
- Regarding personal protective equipment, 71 are in agreement that employers should encourage or require personal protective equipment at work. This is up from 64 percent from December 2020.
- When it comes to requiring regular COVID-19 testing, 69 percent support employers requiring or encouraging testing. This is slightly down from 70 percent in December 2020.