While the federal law requiring employers to offer vaccines to workers in certain jobs has passed, those mandates have not yielded the same result in some industries that have tougher restrictions. Employers with more strict rules have found that the workforce is always the least willing to comply.
While the rules have been effective in keeping workers from passing diseases on to those with less rigorous immunization requirements, new research shows they have had a harsh impact on the workforce. In certain industries, including retail and health care, there is a higher turnover rate.
That’s a problem because workers who are sick can infect other workers, healthcare providers and the public at large.
New research shows the laws aren’t only distorting the employment market, they also don’t work.
At least that’s what Jayesh Desai, an assistant professor at University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy, and colleagues found in their study. The researchers studied the health insurance enrollment data of employees working for companies in Illinois that meet the 2009 federal law’s mandate in the health care industry. And they found those companies with the highest adoption rates of the mandate had the lowest retention of employees.
In fact, the researchers found that eight percent of the company employees without high vaccine coverage were fired in 2014, the most recent year for which the researchers have reliable data.
If you can get the flu, why should you be required to vaccinate against it?
“We show that workers who may be unable to immunize themselves or simply who have decided they don’t want to, are more likely to be fired,” said Desai.
The researchers did find those workers without health insurance, who were made ineligible for companies that meet the mandate, could be more likely to have their employment terminated.
More clearly, in the retail industry, which has harder requirements for vaccination and keeps more employees on health insurance plans, the workers are overwhelmingly happy with the mandate’s benefits.
“It’s not surprising that employers in health care and retail sectors would be the least willing to accommodate [the mandate],” said Desai. “If you can get the flu, why should you be required to vaccinate against it? If you don’t get the flu, you don’t have to be vaccinated.”
Desai and his team first researched their results in Illinois, but have presented the research at a national meeting of the American Sociological Association. The research was paid for with funding from the NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute of Health.
Health and immunization advocates are wary of Desai’s findings and of his opinion that the mandate should be voluntary.
Allison Nastasi, director of the Illinois Immunization Partnership, says the research is “really off base,” because when states adjust their policies for children, they “support immunization and healthy, productive workers and make it easier for employees to receive immunizations.”
“The workforce is very good at changing if you give them a way to do it and an enforcement mechanism for doing it,” she says.