Employers large and small across the country and across the auto industry are grappling with how best to get their employees safely back into their places of work — even though many of them never stopped working, they just stopped going to the office.
Companies find themselves walking a tightrope between keeping their employees as safe as possible while following evolving and — sometimes conflicting — national and local health guidelines.
Vaccines that were developed quickly and rushed into service have effectively brought down infections, but they also complicate matters for employers.
Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson have all won only emergency approval for distribution of their coronavirus vaccines. Lacking full regulatory acceptance, for which Pfizer and Moderna have applied, makes it more difficult for employers to require that workers be vaccinated.
Policies that allow people who have been vaccinated to return to work without wearing masks may prove to be an effective enticement — especially for factory workers, who can't do their jobs from home.
The Biden administration, aiming to slow the spread of the disease enough to ease guidelines, set a goal of having 70 percent of adults in the U.S. at least partially vaccinated by July 4. It won't meet that goal — not because of inadequate vaccine supply, but because large numbers of people are reluctant, uninterested or unwilling to get vaccinated. Unfortunately, in some circles, getting a vaccine has become politicized, much like mask-wearing.
All employers struggle with setting policies that may be unpopular with portions of their work force. If policies are established conscientiously, explained fully and enforced fairly, they are defensible — especially when they follow scientifically based guidelines from public health authorities. The guiding principle should be to do what is best for the company, its employees and other stakeholders.
The COVID-19 pandemic is not over. The more that the viruses are spread — primarily among people who aren't vaccinated — variant strains will continue to emerge. So for their own sakes, employers need to do all they can to encourage and cajole unvaccinated employees to get their shots.