The COVID-19 vaccine is now being distributed across Texas by both Pfizer and Moderna, with frontline healthcare workers and EMS first responders among the first recipients. With wider access on the horizon, some are wondering: Will I be required to get vaccinated to return to work?
Legally, yes, local employment lawyers told Austonia. And economically, a mandate or incentive program to ensure employees are inoculated just makes sense.
"I would say that it's going to lean pretty seriously toward (businesses) requiring vaccines for all employees," trial lawyer Daniel Ross told Austonia.
Ross's firm, Ross Scalise Law Group, specializes in employment law and has heard from a number of employees concerned about pandemic-era workplace protections.
Although there are exemptions that would apply if a business decided to mandate a vaccine, such as in the case of religious beliefs, pregnancy and disability, generally an employer can require its employees to be vaccinated.
"The (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) has basically said that privacy rights of employees to refuse a vaccination does not overrule the benefits of health and safety to the other employees and the population in general," Ross said.
The pandemic is unprecedented in recent American history, but a vaccine mandate wouldn't be totally new.
Schools often require students to be vaccinated against certain diseases as a condition of enrollment, although they too must observe exemptions protected under the law.
And some states require hospital workers to get vaccinated against the seasonal flu each year, said Stephanie Taub, an attorney at the First Liberty Group, a Plano-based law firm that focuses on religious freedoms.
But there are exemptions that apply in the case of current workplace policies—and would if a business imposed a vaccine mandate.
Typically, an employee and employer would work together to arrive at an accommodation that serves both parties.
Tuab gave the example of an employee who observes the Sabbath. In such cases, the employer may allow for the person to work other days of the week to ensure their religious freedoms are protected.
During the pandemic, many employees have raised concerns about working in an office because of underlying conditions or their age, both of which could put them at risk for a more severe case of COVID-19—and dying from it. An employer, in this case, may allow that person to work from home.
"That's a very common accommodation," Ross said.
None of Austin's major employers—which include tech companies such as Apple, Dell and IBM; government entities such as the city of Austin, Austin ISD and the University of Texas at Austin; and hospital systems such as Ascension Seton and St. David's HealthCare—have yet announced a vaccine mandate.
But they could, legally. They may also consider an alternative route.
Daniel Hamermesh, a professor emeritus in UT Austin's economics department, said he would consider an incentives program, such as giving employees a $100 bonus if they receive the COVID vaccine.
"If I were an employer who depends upon customers coming in, I would like to be able to advertise all the people who would be serving you as coronavirus-free because they had been vaccinated," he told Austonia. "To me, this is a very good way to attract customers."
Such a program would likely appeal to offices and other workplaces—in addition to retail establishments—because of the costs of absenteeism and healthcare premiums, both of which could increase if employees return to work without being vaccinated.
An incentive program also skirts the legal requirements of a mandate—and the possibility of any political backlash.
"No one's going to refuse to go to a place because the workers are vaccinated," Hamermesh said.
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The 40-hour workweek has reigned since around the time of the Great Depression. But a new schedule gaining steam could lead some companies to throw out the practice of having employees clock in five days a week.
Promising results are coming out halfway into a six-month trial of four-day workweeks in the U.K. with 35 out of 41 companies responding to a recent survey saying they were “likely” or “very likely” to continue the reduced week after the pilot ends.
The trial, which began in June, is run by nonprofit 4 Day Week Global, think tank Autonomy, the 4 Day Week UK campaign and researchers at Cambridge University, Boston College and Oxford University. It involves 3,300 workers across 72 companies who are trying out one paid day off per week between Monday and Friday.
During the four-day week, 34% of companies reported that productivity “improved slightly” and 15% say it “improved significantly.”
With the survey indicating that a four-day workweek could have some perks for companies and employees alike, will Austin join in on the trend?
On job searching tools like LinkedIn and Indeed, some jobs based in Central Texas are boasting a four-day work week. And Coltech Global, a recruiting firm based in London with a growing presence in Austin, began the four-day work week about a year ago.
Jessica Sutcliffe, a staffing consultant at Coltech, joined the company to help grow the U.S. market. She says due to the time difference between the U.S. team and the UK one, the company implemented a four-day week.
"I’ve found it very beneficial as it allows time to rest and complete life admin, whilst also enjoying life, travel and be able to come back to work rested/fulfilled outside of work, which ultimately helps focus inside of those core work hours," Sutcliffe said via email.
In an Instagram post, Coltech said that not only are employees feeling the benefits of being more refreshed in the mornings, having reduced illness and a less stressed atmosphere, but it’s also improving their carbon footprint since there’s less time spent traveling to the office and using energy.
Niki Jorgensen, director of service operations at human resources service provider Insperity, noted similar factors driving companies to make the change to a reduced work week.
“The most significant benefit for a company to adopt the four-day workweek is the improvement of employee morale,” Jorgensen told Austonia via email. “Over the past two years, numerous studies have shown employees think a four-day workweek reduces stress and burnout. With reduced stress and burnout comes improved employee engagement.”
And while Austin is already drawing in plenty of workers who are in their early careers, a four-day week may help companies stand out to that bracket’s top talent even more.
“Companies can leverage this to make their company more appealing, especially to younger generations who strongly consider factors outside of compensation when choosing employment,” Jorgensen said.
She went on to offer a few tips for making a smooth transition to a four-day week like setting expectations and staggering coverage so that it’s still possible to see clients five days a week. Also, employers should be flexible. She says some employees may not be able to get 40 hours of work done in a shorter week due to responsibilities like childcare, so employers should consider how they can still accomplish their duties.
Before ditching the 40-hour workweek though, it can help to take a temperature check to see if an extra day off is the right fit for the workplace.
“Do not implement a flexible schedule such as the four-day workweek if business owners and managers cannot commit to the level of trust and flexibility needed to ensure the schedule’s success,” Jorgensen said.
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Camp Fimfo Waco, a brand new camping resort, is kicking off football and fall camping season in style! With top-notch amenities, premium accommodations, and 10 weekends of fall fun, there’s no better place to have a fall camping getaway, especially if you’re a Baylor football fan!
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Packages and Ways to Stay
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Located just 5 miles from McLane Stadium, Camp Fimfo Waco is the perfect place to stay during home game weekends. Skip the stuffy hotel room and embrace the great outdoors before cheering on the Baylor Bears! Campers can purchase a Baylor Tailgating Package that includes a pre-game meal from Executive Chef Sean Kelley and transportation to and from the game! Chef Kelley will also be cooking up delicious, elevated tailgating meals near the stadium so make sure to check out The Plaid Plate food truck before the game.
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Amenities and Activities
Camp Fimfo Waco
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