Do employees have to be vaccinated? Not on Essential Avenue

Courtney Senechal, RN, prepares to administer the second Moderna vaccine for Covid-19 on January 19, 2021 at the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center in Boston.

Jonathan Wiggs | Boston Globe | Getty Images

According to the latest CNBC | SurveyMonkey Small Business Survey, little more than one in five small business owners (22%) will require their employees to receive Covid-19 vaccines as they become available. Twice as many (42%) say they will not require vaccinations.

The question of whether workers need to be vaccinated as soon as possible has become a controversial issue in the business world. With little guidance from the federal government, business leaders had to make their own decisions.

Some business owners consider vaccinations to be the key to a full reopening, some companies even incentivize vaccinated workers, while others want to avoid going overboard. The new survey, conducted January 25-31 of 2,157 small business owners across the country using SurveyMonkey’s online platform, and based on the survey methodology, shows particular reluctance among the small business community, which had struggled last year to to adapt to the pandemic.

More than four in ten small business owners (43%) said they had to shut down at some point due to the pandemic, including 20% ​​who said they have since reopened with limited capacity. 10% who say they haven’t reopened yet; and even 4% who say they shut down, reopened, and then shut down again.

Hardly more than half of small business owners (55%) state that they can continue to work for more than a year under the current terms and conditions. For these small businesses, a widespread vaccine rollout can be the key to a full reopening.

While small business owners overall have a limited enthusiasm for vaccination requirements, certain industries seem more open to the idea than others, especially those that rely on close personal interactions between customers and employees.

Restaurants, hospitality most likely to vaccinate

Small business owners in the accommodation and catering industry – e.g. B. restaurants, bars, casinos, B & Bs, caterers – most often indicate willingness to ask their employees to be vaccinated. But even among this group the enthusiasm is not widespread.

About 28% say they will prescribe the vaccine to their employees as soon as it is available to them, while another 33% say they are not sure yet. Both are well above the overall average. Only 32% now say they are sure that their employees do not need to be vaccinated – 10 points less than the overall average.

Q1 2021 CNBC | SurveyMonkey Small Business Survey

Small business owners in the hospitality and catering industries are some of the hardest hit during 2020, and this continues to this day. Only 42% say their business stayed open throughout the pandemic, which is below the overall average of 54%. Less than half (45%) say they can survive for more than a year under the current business conditions.

Some big players in the industry have already stepped up to push their workers to vaccinate, whether they ask for it or just strongly encourage them. Marriott and Chipotle have both asked their employees to get vaccinated, but neither makes it a requirement. Darden restaurants, owned by chains like the Olive Garden and Outback Steakhouse, go so far as to pay workers to vaccinate.

By encouraging their employees to get vaccinated, entrepreneurs are trying to walk a fine line. Surveys have consistently shown that in this increasingly partisan environment, every statement about vaccinations is viewed through a partisan lens.

Partisan difference in vaccines remains

In the latest survey results, small business owners who identify as Democrats are more than twice as likely as Republicans to say they ask their employees to get the Covid-19 vaccine (39% versus 14%). This gap is larger than any other gap, including by industry, number of employees, or type of business.

This gap is also consistent with similar differences between Republicans and Democrats: in their support for workers who need to be vaccinated and in their own willingness to be vaccinated.

In Gallup’s latest poll, 91% of Democrats but only 51% of Republicans say they would be willing to get the Covid-19 vaccine now if they could get the vaccine for free.

In our last CNBC | SurveyMonkey Workforce Survey, conducted among more than 9,000 workers across the country in November, said 75% of Democrats said they support mandatory vaccinations in their workplace as soon as they are widely available, compared with just 41% of Republicans.

In recent polls by the Kaiser Family Foundation, exactly twice as many Democrats as Republicans said they have already received the vaccine or plan to get it as soon as possible (64% versus 32%). Their poll also reveals a more fundamental party divide: 71% of Republicans say choosing to get vaccinated is “a personal choice,” while 70% of Democrats say choosing to get vaccinated ” Part of everyone’s responsibility is to protect the health of others. ”

Basically, this is the same question small business owners face when weighing competing needs: letting their employees choose what is best for their own health, rather than making a management decision about what is best for the entire company the best is.

On Thursday, Comcast launched NBCUniversal Plan Your Vaccine, a nationwide awareness campaign, website and interactive tool that provides the latest news and information on when and where people can get the COVID-19 vaccine.

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