Weekly Review: COVID-19 Legal and Ethics Issues – April 26, 2021

Weekly Review: COVID-19 Legal and Ethics Issues – April 26, 2021

With every person in the U.S. aged 16 and older now eligible to be vaccinated against Covid-19, there is increased focus on steps being taken to encourage or require vaccination. Below are a few updates on employer policies and University mandates:

Vaccination – Employer Paid Sick Leave & Incentives to Get Shots

To maximize the number of people who get protected against Covid-19 through vaccination will require identifying and knocking down obstacles to their access.

One of the biggest challenges is for people who work full time (or more) finding the opportunity to step away from work to get the shot(s). Last week, President Biden asked that all businesses to offer their employees full pay for any time off needed to get themselves vaccinated as well as any time that might be needed for post-vaccination recovery. In addition, he announced some of the provisions that are now available under the American Rescue Plan. As the White House press release states, these include:

  • A Tax Credit for Small- and Medium-sized Businesses to Fully Offset the Cost of Paid Leave for Employees to Get Vaccinated and Recover from Any After-Effects of Vaccination. Thanks to President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, a paid leave tax credit will offset the cost for businesses and nonprofits with fewer than 500 employees for up to 80 hours (i.e. 10 work days) up to $511 per day of paid sick leave offered between April 1 and September 30, 2021. This tax credit will allow these employers to provide paid leave for employees to get a COVID-19 vaccination and for any time their employees may need to recover from that vaccination at no cost to the employer. This tax credit will apply to nearly half of all private sector employees in America. [Last week], the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released and posted a fact sheet to educate employers on how to claim the paid sick leave credit on their quarterly tax filings. For more details on how the paid leave tax credits from the American Rescue Plan will work for employers to enable employees to get vaccinated and recover from after-effects of vaccination, as well as for other purposes, please consult this snapshot from the Department of the Treasury.

According to the Biden Administration, “the tax credit in the American Rescue Plan will enable employers with fewer than 500 employees to claim up to $17,110 for 14 weeks of paid leave for each impacted employee not only to get vaccinated, but also to take time off if they have COVID-19 symptoms and are going to the doctor; are getting tested for COVID-19; are under quarantine or isolation order by the government or a doctor (or are caring for someone who is); or have to care for a child whose school or child care provider closed, due to COVID-19.”

A new survey from Willis Towers Watson finds strong employer support for employee vaccination. While only 1 in 10 employers see themselves implementing mandates, the survey offers insights into a number of steps employers are taking or considering taking to lower barriers to, encourage and incentivize employee vaccination, including:

  • 60% of employer respondents have communicated to employees the value of vaccines; & another 35% plan or are considering doing so.
  • 35% of employers having developed policies and procedures to ease worker vaccine access; with another 50% considering doing so.
  • Nearly a quarter of all employers helping employees get vaccinated by obtaining vaccines to administer to their employees or facilitating access to vaccines through a third party; with another 55% planning or considering doing so. Among employers that have taken action, or are planning or considering doing so, more than half (55%) are arranging for vaccines to be administered at retail pharmacies, while 45% plan to create a center or onsite/near-site facility to deliver vaccines.
  • One out of 5 respondents offer incentives to get vaccinated, and another three in 10 are planning or considering doing so. Among those, 39% are providing extra leave or vacation time to get vaccinated, while a quarter (27%) are providing additional leave to employees who have negative reactions or get sick from the vaccine. One in 10 are offering cash or other financial incentives.

University Vaccine Mandates

An increasing number of universities and colleges are announcing their vaccine policies for Fall 2021. The biggest news so far — as it will affect the lives of more than 1 million people across 33 campuses — concerns the University of California and California State systems. Those systems announced that all faculty, staff, and students will be required to be vaccinated against Covid-19 for the fall semester, once the vaccines are fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The vaccines are anticipated to receive full FDA approval before the Fall. Exemptions will be permitted for medical and religious reasons.

This makes close to 100 institutions of higher education so far that will require vaccination by the fall for some portion of its population (students, staff, faculty). Legally and ethically, absent a state prohibition against such mandates or collective bargaining restrictions, it appears that universities would have the authority to implement vaccination mandates on campus.

While Purdue and Indiana have not announced their vaccination policies for the Fall, three other Big Ten schools have recently announced theirs, including:

The University System of Maryland announced Friday that all faculty, staff, and students that wish to be on campus in the fall will need to demonstrate proof of vaccination.

The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor announced it will require all students who live in residence halls to be vaccinated (just under 10,000 undergraduates — about 31% of their undergraduates — and about 2,400 graduate students live in their dormitories). While they are strongly encouraging everyone get vaccinated, they are not “at this time” announcing a requirement for all faculty, staff, or the rest of their student body.

In contrast: the public universities in Iowa have announced they will not require students to receive Covid-19 vaccines before returning to school next fall.

|2021-04-26T08:30:22-04:00April 26th, 2021|COVID-19 Literature|0 Comments

About the Author: Ross Silverman

Ross Silverman
Ross D. Silverman, JD, MPH, is Professor of Health Policy and Management at Indiana University Fairbanks School of Public Health and Professor of Public Health and Law at Indiana University McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis. He is a member of the IU Centers on Health Policy and Bioethics. His research focuses on public health and medical law, policy, and ethics, and law's impact on health outcomes and vulnerable populations. He also serves as Associate Editor on Legal Epidemiology for Public Health Reports, the official journal of the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General and the U.S. Public Health Service. His most recent Covid-19 publications include: "Ensuring Uptake of Vaccines Against SARS-CoV-2" in the New England Journal of Medicine (with MM Mello & SB Omer), and "Covid-19: control measures must be equitable and inclusive" in BMJ (with ZD Berger, NG Evans & AL Phelan)

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