New research: Most employees support federal vaccine mandates but don’t believe they will be enforced
More than a year and a half into the pandemic, the country faces a pivotal moment as the federal government begins to roll out vaccine mandates for federal workers, healthcare workers and those at companies with more than 100 employees.
While businesses are grappling with labor and supply shortages, the majority of Americans hope new federal rules will bring relief from COVID spread and encourage safety-conscious Americans to reenter the workforce. On the other hand, others are concerned that vaccine mandates will cause unvaccinated workers to quit. These policy decisions can be divisive, according to 60% of U.S. employees who say vaccine mandates or discussion about them have caused contention in the workplace.
Seeking insights into employee sentiment toward vaccines and then acting on that data is critical for employers hoping to comply with mandates and retain employees. Qualtrics asked those who will be subject to the executive orders what they think of the new regulations and how vaccine mandates will affect their career decisions going forward.
Employer and government mandate support
Complying with vaccine mandates is the next in a long list of challenges employers have had to face during the global pandemic. The majority of American employees support vaccine mandates, whether from their employers or from the government.
- Overall, the majority of employees (58%) support the executive order mandating vaccinations in the workplace.
- 64% support the federal mandate for healthcare workers
- 60% support the federal mandate for federal workers
- 58% support the federal mandate for employees at companies with more than 100 people
- 59% of employees support their current employer implementing vaccine mandates no matter the size of the company. The number has stayed steady since August at 60%, despite the announcement of federal mandates and a spike in Delta variant cases.
Some employees will leave their jobs
In the midst of a labor shortage, companies are worried about losing workers. While the majority of unvaccinated Americans are not worried about getting fired if they don’t comply with requirements, 75% of unvaccinated workers say they are considering leaving their job when mandates go into effect (45% would strongly consider leaving).
- 35% of unvaccinated employees fear getting fired from their jobs if they don’t comply with vaccine requirements
- If unvaccinated workers are fired:
- 32% say they will look for jobs at companies with 100+ employees
- 22% say they will look for jobs at smaller companies
- 14% say they will start a business
- 13% say they will retire or take a break from work
- Overall, 44% of employees say they would consider leaving their jobs if a mandate were in place (23% would strongly consider leaving)
- On the other hand, 40% of all employees would consider leaving their place of work if a vaccine mandate is NOT in place (14% would strongly consider leaving)
Challenges to enforcing federal vaccine mandates
While the Biden administration has announced that non-compliant businesses will be fined, less than half (49%) of U.S. employees are confident the federal government will effectively enforce vaccine mandates for private businesses.
- 23% of employees say they are not confident the federal government will effectively enforce vaccine mandates and the rest are unsure.
- 41% of employees think their company’s leadership will enforce a federal vaccine mandate, compared to 31% of employees who do not think their company’s leadership will do so.
- Employees are split on whether they want their company leaders to enforce the mandate. 42% want them to and 39% do not want them to.
Most employees are willing to report coworkers
One thing that may assist in the enforcement of federal vaccine mandates but add to contention among coworkers is that most employees would consider reporting a coworker to company leadership, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) or another authority for violating a vaccine mandate.
- 55% of employees would consider reporting a coworker (23% would strongly consider reporting) 45% would not consider reporting a coworker.
Contention in the workplace
64% of vaccinated and 49% of unvaccinated employees agree that vaccine requirements or discussion about them have caused contention at their place of work.
- 84% of employees say politics influence their company leaders’ handling of vaccine, mask, and testing policies.
- 37% say politics affects their company ‘a great deal.’
- 42% say that politics has a negative impact on companies’ decision-making; 22% say it has a positive impact.
- Bigger companies face more contention. 63% of those at companies with more than 100 employees say there is vaccine-related contention compared to 54% at companies with less than 100 employees.
- 51% are worried that federal mandates will cause more division at their company.
- 1 in 4 employees (25%) say they feel uncomfortable talking about vaccination status with coworkers
- Contention impacts productivity For employees who say there is contention, the top ways this has affected the workplace are:
- 1) Decreased trust among coworkers (30%)
- 2) Decreased trust between managers and employees (28%)
- 3) Division into groups or cliques (24%)
The unvaccinated will be hard to sway
Federal vaccine mandates are meant to influence and protect the unvaccinated, but few in this group say they are likely to be convinced by a law or executive order.
- The top reasons people say they are not vaccinated are:
- 1) I don’t trust the government (39%)
- 2) I’m afraid of side effects (38%)
- 3) I’m cautiously waiting for more information (20%)
- 37% of unvaccinated people say nothing would convince them to get the vaccine
- Only 7% say a law or executive order would motivate them to get the vaccine
- 12% say the risk of being fired would convince them to get the vaccine
- 52% of unvaccinated people say mandates would make them less likely to want to get vaccinated vs. 23% who say mandates would make them more likely to get vaccinated
Support for federal vaccine mandates by Industry
Employees in the Tech & IT industry are the most supportive of federal vaccine mandates compared to those who work in health care, retail, and government. Roughly a quarter of government, healthcare, and private employees oppose mandates that would apply to them.
- Tech & IT workers:
- 74% support federal mandates overall vs. 16% who are opposed
- 61% want their employer to enforce federal mandates vs. 22% who don’t want them to
- Health Care workers:
- 56% support federal mandates overall vs. 33% who are opposed
- 38% want their employer to enforce federal mandates vs. 50% who don’t want them to
- Travel/Hospitality/Food workers:
- 54% support federal mandates overall vs. 29% who are opposed
- 42% want their employer to enforce federal mandates vs. 39% who don’t want them to
- Retail workers:
- 54% support federal mandates overall vs. 30% who do not support
- 30% want their employer to enforce federal mandates vs. 44% who don’t want them to
- Government workers:
- 51% support federal mandates overall vs. 39% who do not support
- 40% want their employer to enforce federal mandates vs. 45% who don’t want them to
This study was fielded between Oct. 12 and Oct. 15, 2021. Respondents were selected from a randomized panel and considered eligible if they live in the United States, are at least 18 years of age and are employed full-time or part-time. The total number of respondents was 1,309. Respondents who did not pass quality standards were removed.
Learn more about Qualtrics’ Vaccination and Testing manager here.
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