The number of businesses and industries requiring employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 continues to climb, especially in light of Wednesday announcements from Gov. Larry Hogan and President Joe Biden mandating that nursing home and hospital workers get shots or receive regular tests.
For that portion of Maryland’s population that remains unvaccinated, it may become difficult to find or keep work as more and more businesses announce mandates.
Currently, many of Maryland’s top employers are mandating the vaccine, such as the University System of Maryland, which announced a vaccine requirement for staff and faculty, as well as students, in April. Some state workers will be required to be vaccinated or undergo regular testing, Gov. Hogan announced earlier this month, as will all county government workers in Anne Arundel County.
Two of the state’s largest employers are hospital systems — the University of Maryland Medical System, which employs 29,000 people, and Johns Hopkins Medicine, which employs over 30,000. More broadly, health care is one of Maryland’s largest sectors, and hospitals account for 8% of the jobs in the state, according to the Maryland Hospital Association.
JP Krahel, a professor at Loyola’s Sellinger School of Business, said that the biggest risk for businesses considering instituting a vaccine mandate is the risk of workers quitting — a significant risk amid ongoing labor shortages and hiring struggles.
“Every decision a business makes is going to be based on costs and benefits. One of the clearest costs … is that some employees may leave,” he said. “That comes at a cost to the employee, too, they lose income, but especially due to the labor shortages we’ve been seeing that’s something to consider.”
Previous concerns about the legal rights of a business to mandate the vaccine have largely fallen away, as courts and governmental bodies continuously rule in support of mandates.
On the other hand, the benefits of implementing mandates are multifold. They can make the business more appealing to customers and clients concerned about the virus; for this reason, vaccine mandates can be attractive to customer-facing businesses like restaurants, bars, music venues and stores.
Employee vaccine requirements will also make it less likely that employees will contract COVID-19 and have to take time off work to recover.
“Businesses tend to like stability,” Krahel said. “The vaccine, as we’ve seen, is safe and allows for predictability.”
For certain workplaces, there is the possibility that, should they implement a mandate, workers will be allowed to continue to work from home if they are unwilling or unable to get the vaccine. Schools, restaurants, manufacturing facilities and other hands-on workplaces will have less ability to accommodate unvaccinated people.
Another area in which workplaces are able to be flexible is allowing negative COVID-19 tests in place of vaccines. But this may not last for long; as more and more people receive the inoculation, it’s less likely employers will be willing to foot the bill for workers’ tests.
Still, other options are available for workers hesitant to get vaccinated. Some Maryland businesses have stopped short of requiring the inoculation, such as Marriott International, which told CoStar News in June that it was “strongly encouraging” the vaccine but would not require it. The company had previously announced that it was offering a financial incentive to those who did receive the vaccine.
Amazon, which has around 20,000 workers in Maryland, also has not announced any plans to require vaccinations out of fear of losing workers, according to Bloomberg. The company is reticent to test workers frequently for the same reasons.
Additionally, Krahel noted, because the vaccine has become so politicized, there is a possibility that businesses without unvaccinated staff will “wear their non-vaccinated status with pride,” as a way of attracting clientele who oppose the vaccine.
Because of this, it’s likely that workers in certain industries — especially health care — will likely have more difficulty than others continuing to work without receiving the vaccine.