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Attraction and Retention Amid President Biden’s Vaccine Mandates

Attracting and retaining top talent is always a top challenge facing employers. With the COVID-19 pandemic, employers have had to navigate a tight labor market while supporting employees and adapting to local COVID-19 regulations. And soon, some employers may be subject to President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandates, which can further complicate employee relations and talent acquisition efforts.

Biden recently directed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to draft a new emergency rule requiring businesses with 100 or more employees to ensure workers are either fully vaccinated or tested for COVID-19 weekly.

This article provides an overview of the impending rule, talent market implications and employer considerations for employee attraction and retention.

Overview of the Rule

The new rule comes shortly after the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine was fully approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration, enabling the White House to fight the pandemic more aggressively. The OSHA emergency rule—which is expected to take effect in the coming weeks—will reportedly also require large employers to provide their workers with paid time off to get vaccinated and recover from any vaccination-related side effects.

Impact on Labor Market

Notably, while this rule impacts around two-thirds of private-sector employees, it does only impact around 2.5% of private-sector employers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, that small percentage of companies employ the overwhelming majority of U.S. workers, impacting as many as 80 million Americans.

Employee beliefs will vary greatly, so employers need a pulse on their workforce’s concerns. As such, Qualtrics conducted a survey with U.S. employees about vaccine mandates in March 2021 and again recently after plans for a federal mandate were announced. Consider the following findings:

  • More than half (60%) of employees say they’d support their current employers if they require vaccination before returning to work. In March, that number was a bit higher at 66%.
  • Nearly a quarter (23%) of employees would strongly consider leaving their place of work if their employers mandated vaccines, compared with 19% in March.
  • About half (57%) of employees would feel safe going back to work without a vaccine mandate, while 24% would feel unsafe in the workplace without a vaccine mandate.
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