The US is currently facing a surge in COVID-19 cases as the Delta variant sweeps through the country. On the back of this escalating situation, President Joe Biden has introduced new measures designed to combat the virus.
In a new effort to protect US citizens, Biden has introduced a vaccine mandate for millions of federal government workers. Additionally, the US Department of Labor will now require all private businesses with 100 or more staff to mandate a COVID-19 vaccine or request proof of a negative coronavirus test from employees on a weekly basis.
Speaking about vaccine mandates in the US, Professor of Law at UC Hastings College of the Law Dorit Reiss told UNLEASH that HR should enable people time to get the vaccine as well as time-off in an effort to make the process “less painful for everybody.”
Biden has seemingly echoed this sentiment as he addressed employee concerns that they would have to miss work after the vaccination, companies who mandate a vaccine will now have to give workers paid time off to get vaccinated or recover from any side effects of getting vaccinated.
The US President further introduced tougher fines for people who refuse to wear face masks, as well as the deployment of healthcare workers to areas experiencing surges in cases, such as Washington state, West Virginia and South Dakota.
The virus is significantly impacting the world of work; for instance, in the past few weeks, Apple and Microsoft have committed to working remotely indefinitely.
However, many will wonder how the US’ situation compares with the rest of the world.
While the US implements more mandatory vaccinations, how is the rest of the world developing its inoculation efforts?
Vaccines and work in the EU
Despite dealing with supply shortages of Pfizer and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines early into the rollout, the European Union (EU) has largely managed to stay on course with its vaccination goals.
Germany had inoculated 62% of its population at the time of writing, and large enterprises within the country assisted with efforts to vaccinate employees.
Notably, DW reported that the head of Deutsche Bank, Christian Sewing, told Welt: “We want to contribute pragmatically to achieving herd immunity in Germany as quickly as possible.”
A similar sentiment was echoed by other enterprises; Adidas, Deutsche Post, Deutsche Telekom, and Siemens also encouraged people to get the vaccine.
However, Germany has not decided on vaccine mandate measures and still relies on people to get a vaccine independently, or with the help of their employer.
As a result, there are still growing concerns that the country will have to adapt to a fourth-wave of COVID-19 this autumn, and the president of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Lothar Wieler, was quoted by deutschland.de saying: “If we [Germany] don’t drastically increase the current vaccination rates, then the current fourth wave can take a fulminant course in autumn.”
France has had even more success with its inoculation rate. 88% of the country has received a jab, and the government has also enforced vaccine requirement rules for employees.
All staff who work face-to-face with the public will have to be vaccinated or have proof of a negative test within 72 hours of their working day. While this is similar to the US policy, France and Germany have also introduced COVID-19 immunity passports in an effort to mitigate the spreading virus. In France, these immunity documents are used for people-facing places of work as well as public settings, while they are used primarily for travel in Germany.
Similarly, the UK has also implemented a vaccine passport measure. Nonetheless, the country is still considering whether certain groups of workers should have mandatory vaccinations.
The British government is currently deciding whether healthcare workers in the NHS and care homes should face a vaccine mandate. At the moment 88% of NHS trust staff have received two doses of a vaccine.
Like France, the UK has made it legal to enforce vaccinations or regular testing for employees who face the public. By doing this HR teams will simply need to make employees aware of the situation and encourage those who are hesitant about the vaccine to get verified information.
Vaccinations in Asia
The vaccination process has been slower in Asia, and there are complications that HR must face when it comes to mandating vaccines legally. Due to legal concerns, certain sectors have introduced vaccine mandates, while others have not.
The likes of Asia-Pacific airlines, Toyota Motor Corp., UNIQLO, and the civil service in Hong Kong have begun rolling out vaccinations for employees.
Much like the rest of the world, businesses in Asia have been key in encouraging the uptake of vaccinations. For example, trading company Itochu introduced a vaccine mandate in an effort to have employees return.
The Japanese government also supported this strategy from enterprises; so on 8 June, it started accepting vaccination applications from companies. In total 1,034 companies and universities applied for vaccinations and this would impact 5 million people. The companies involved included ANA Holdings Inc., East Japan Railway Co., Marubeni Corp., and Keio University. These institutions needed to facilitate the vaccination after the government sent them the jabs.
Across Asia vaccine mandates are not very common, nonetheless, it is clear that some of the continent’s most well-known businesses are keen to vaccinate employees.
Tech helping companies
With hopes of employees returning to work across the world, technology has been able to help and ensure employees are protected from the continuing threat of COVID-19.
For example, ServiceNow has introduced the Vaccination Status App which uses its Now Platform to deliver a “modern, self-service experience across desktop and mobile devices.” The software intends to allow employers to see who has been vaccinated and manage their workforce without privacy violations.
Likewise, Workday has introduced a vaccine management solution that gives employers insight into the health and safety of their employees as they return to the office.
On the back of this, it seems that it is easier than ever for enterprises to actually implement check employees’ vaccination status if they so desire. This is useful given that most governments are actively encouraging businesses to be part of the vaccine rollout.
In terms of uniting enterprises and government goals around vaccine mandates, the US is leading the way, even if its vaccination numbers are behind other world leaders.
After working with tech start-ups and media outlets like UNILAD Technology, The Hook and WhatCulture, Dan has become a journalist at UNLEASH. Dan is combining his first-hand experience alongside the latest news and opinions in the HR Technology space.