Most organisations will encourage their employees to get vaccinated against Covid-19 before returning to the workplace, but a very small proportion (8%) want to make it a requirement.

A survey of HR, real estate, legal, compliance and privacy leaders in December 2020 and January 2021 revealed that 71% of organisations plan to encourage employees to get vaccinated before returning to the workplace, but will not require it, according to Gartner.

“Mandating vaccination is a complex decision from a legal perspective,” says Chris Audet, senior director in the Gartner Legal and Compliance practice.

“Any decision to mandate will be dependent on business necessity and must account for exceptions. In some cases, requiring the vaccine may be a strategic decision to create a comparative advantage for the organisation.”

Sixty-one percent of respondents intend to provide resources to employees on where and how to get vaccinated, and approximately half said they will create an internal communications campaign on the benefits and/or subsidize the costs of the vaccine for employees.

Most organisations are not considering mandating vaccinations for their employees because there are many difficulties with doing so.

The privacy burden of collecting and storing such medical information is beyond the scope of what most organisations are equipped to handle. The procedural challenges associated with tracking vaccination status are also considerable.

“For now, most organisations don’t see the benefits of mandating vaccination as outweighing its potential costs,” says Audet. “Even tracking who has had a vaccine has many challenges, so the majority of respondents are not planning on that step either.”

Fifty-three percent had no plans to track who has received a vaccine, while a quarter of respondents will ask employees to self-report their vaccination status but not require proof. Only 6% of respondents planned to require employees to show proof of vaccination before they return to work.

Respondents didn’t envisage a return to 2019 working practices even with the vaccine rollout taking place. More than half of respondents think less than 50% of their employees will want to return to the workplace, suggesting the hybrid workforce will likely outlast the pandemic. Just 9% think that 76% to 100% of their workforce want to return to the office.

“Legal and compliance leaders need to re-evaluate the ‘band-aid’ policy fixes put in place in 2020 in areas such as remote work,” says Audet. “Many of the changes that seemed temporary at the time have become established ways of working, and it’s crucial to ensure that the legal policies and procedures put in place at the start of the pandemic are suitable for the long-term.”

Most legal and compliance leaders don’t foresee a return to normal business operations until at least Q3-Q4 2021, with many of those predictions being pushed back to “sometime in 2022” in the latest surveys.

Even when the vaccine is widely available 60% of respondents still anticipate keeping all workplace safety measures they have in place, such as wearing masks and social distancing.

“Legal and HR leaders are generally taking a wait-and-see approach,” says Audet. “They want to learn more about the efficacy of the vaccines in preventing the spread of Covid-19 and the speed at which the public can be vaccinated before rolling back safety precautions.”