Friday, March 24, 2023

Survey: Many Workers Want to Keep Masking Policies, Even for Vaccinated Employees

Survey: Many Workers Want to Keep Masking Policies, Even for Vaccinated Employees

News brief:

  • Nearly six in 10 adults (57%) said they believe employees should still be required to wear a mask when working on-site, even after receiving the COVID-19 vaccination, according to the June 24 results of an American Staffing Association survey. In addition, while 60% of respondents said it was “no one’s business but [their] own” whether they received a vaccine, 66% said they had “a right to know” if their co-workers had been vaccinated.  
  • The survey revealed differences in opinion along both generational and racial/ethnic lines. At 70% and 64%, respectively, Black and Hispanic workers were more likely to agree with on-site masking even after vaccination, compared with 50% of White workers. Baby boomers and members of the silent generation were more likely to say workers had a right to know their co-workers’ vaccination statuses, while millennials and members of Generation X and those younger were more likely to say vaccination status was an individual’s private business.
  • ASA conducted the survey online in partnership with The Harris Poll from June 10-14. It engaged 2,066 adult respondents from the United States.

In addition to concerns over whether and how to integrate hybrid and remote work arrangements when offices reopen, employers are also working to establish safety and health protocols. As of June 23, more than 53% of the U.S. population had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to Our World in Data. While the country is unlikely to meet the Biden administration’s goal of at least 70% of adults becoming partially vaccinated by July 4, certain urban centers — including Seattle and San Francisco — have already met the target.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have relaxed guidelines for fully vaccinated people, suggesting they may stop wearing a mask, stop socially distancing and resume normal activities — and asserting that the vaccine is effective at preventing both infections from and the spread of COVID-19 — the public remains hesitant to let go of some safety protocols, the ASA survey shows.

Employers have been following guidance from the CDC, but have looked to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for the final word on COVID-19 protocol in the workplace. In June, OSHA released guidance stating that, in agreement with the CDC, most employers “no longer need to take steps to protect their workers from COVID-19 exposure in any workplace, or well-defined portions of a workplace, where all employees are fully vaccinated.” For unvaccinated employees, however, OSHA recommends continuing to implement masking, physical distancing, and other safety protocols.

Because many workplaces are likely to have a “mixed” status of both vaccinated and unvaccinated employees, the ASA survey results demonstrate that employees’ desire for privacy on the subject could create a confusing situation for employers. To complicate things further, 66% of respondents believed they had a “right to know” their co-workers’ vaccination statuses.

“As work sites reopen across the country, employee concerns about COVID-19 are creating a challenging privacy paradox,” ASA President and CEO Richard Wahlquist said in a release. “Employees want to know whether their fellow co-workers have been vaccinated but don’t want to make their own status public. In balancing these interests, employers must keep workplace safety considerations top of mind.”

Employers could simplify workplace policy by mandating vaccines for employees — a policy the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has said is legal, with a few exceptions — but most employers are hesitant to require such a policy due to fears of violating anti-discrimination laws.