March 29, 2021
Should Your Dental Practice Require COVID-19 Vaccines for Staff?
Universal COVID-19 vaccines are becoming more of a reality every day, not to mention a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, no matter which part of the country you’re in. While time will only tell when society will truly return to “normal,” the inevitable question on every dental practice owner’s mind is: Can or should dentists require their staff to get vaccinated? The short answer is that employers can institute a policy that makes vaccinations a condition of employment; however, exceptions exist with every rule. Here are some points to consider from a human resources perspective.
There will most certainly be employees who are hesitant to get the vaccine due to its tight timeframe for release, potential side effects or other personal considerations. No matter the reason, the employer must carefully consider and manage the concern on a case-by-case basis, even if there is a mandatory policy in place to determine where exemptions draw a line.
Employees might have a medical condition that might exclude them from getting the vaccine. The Americans with Disabilities Act prevents discriminating against employees and applicants on the basis of a medical condition or disability, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) prohibits employers from inquiring further about any preexisting medical conditions.
In addition to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, individual state laws prohibit employers from discriminating against employees and applicants based on religion. An employee may be considered exempt from a mandatory vaccine policy based on a “sincerely held religious belief.”
If mandating employees get the COVID-19 vaccine seems too aggressive for your practice culture, it’s not your only option. You could start by providing your employees with resources on the benefits of getting vaccinated, as well as encourage them to do the same after you have received yours. But best of all, you can create a safe place where employees can discuss their concerns about getting the vaccine or working with others who are not vaccinated.
Recently, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) amended the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act to expand the list of health care professionals who can administer COVID-19 vaccines to include dentists and dental students. This is a far cry from 2020 when dental professionals were not deemed “health care workers” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in order to get vaccinated. Hosting a vaccine event at your practice for employees and the greater community would help encourage employees to set an example.
Contact the experts at Professional Transition Strategies for more guidance on how to document the vaccine process and handle HR-related matters.