Do workplace vaccine mandates cause some employees to leave rather than getting a shot?
For example, a Lowville hospital had to close its maternity ward after dozens of employees refused to get vaccinated. After refusing to receive the vaccine, at least 125 employees of Indiana University Health quit.
Numerous surveys have found that half of those not vaccinated workers would quit their job if they were forced to get it. This has raised concerns among some who fear that mandates may lead to a mass exodus of workers from many industries.
But how many will follow through?
We conducted a survey across the country in June 2021. This was funded by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The survey included 1,036 respondents who reflected the diversity of the U.S.
We asked the respondents what they would do if their employer required them to take vaccines. We presented them with several options, so they could choose as many as they wanted.
Our survey found that 16% would leave their job, look for work elsewhere or do both if they were required by their employer. We found that almost 25% of those who indicated they were vaccine-hesitant would quit their job or seek another one. 48% said the same.
Similar results have been reported in other polls. The Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that 50% of workers would quit.
We also found that 63% of workers believed that a mandate for vaccines would make them feel more secure.
It is simple and inexpensive to tell a pollster that you will quit your job. But, it's a different matter when you have to lose a paycheck your family depends on.
Based on the sample of companies with vaccine mandates, the number of people who resign than receive the vaccine is actually much lower than what the survey data suggests.
Houston Methodist Hospital required that its 25,000 employees get vaccinated by June 7. About 15% of the hospital's employees had never been vaccinated before the mandate. This percentage dropped to 3% by mid-June and was at 2% late July. Total of 153 workers were fired, resigned or expelled. 285 others were granted religious or medical exemptions, and 332 were allowed defer it.
Five of the 527 employees at Jewish Home Family, Rockleigh, New Jersey quit after its mandate to administer vaccines. Two of the 250 workers quit Westminster Village, Illinois. Hanceville Nursing & Rehab Center, a deeply conservative state in Alabama, lost six of its 260 employees.
Although Delta Airlines did not require a shot, it did charge a US$200 per-month surcharge for health insurance to unvaccinated employees in August. The airline claimed that less than 2% of employees quit because of the policy.
Indiana University Health's 125 employees who left are 0.3% of the total 35,800 employees.
Similar outcomes have been achieved by past vaccine mandates (e.g. flu): Very few people quit their jobs to comply with them.
Our research shows that employers have a few options to reduce the number of employees who leave due to the policy.
Building trust with employees is the first step. Employers should make it as easy for employees to get vaccinated as possible by offering on-site vaccination drives, paid time off to get the shot, and assistance with child care and transportation.
Research shows that it is beneficial for companies to engage trusted messengers such as family members, doctors, and colleagues in order to share information about the vaccine.
In other words: Although mandated vaccines are unlikely to cause a wave of resignations, they will likely lead to an increase in vaccination rates.
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