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Is Your Organization Thinking of Either Administering or Mandating Vaccines? Consider Employee Privacy and Information Security Risks.

April 5, 2021

Communicators and leaders must address vaccines in the workplace in a way that considers both the range of concerns and viewpoints among employees, as well as the legal and regulatory requirements concerning employee privacy.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) confirmed employers can mandate vaccines for their workers, and now organizations face a multitude of decisions, including whether they will issue such a mandate and – if so – how to handle vaccination information. In addition to adhering to guidance from the EEOC, Occupational Safety and Health Administration and local jurisdictions, the following considerations can help you avoid some of the pitfalls of requiring and tracking employee vaccinations, including risks related to privacy, verification, technology and third-party relationships. For most employers, expert guidance across domains will be necessary.

Understand the legal landscape across geographies

Even with affirmative EEOC guidance, the reality of mandating and tracking employee vaccination is more nuanced. Depending on their geographical footprint, employers must comply with a range of regulations, including the U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, the California Consumer Privacy Act and the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation. Religious protection adds another layer of complexity. Moreover, mandating or administering vaccines may require the disclosure of information protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. With so many regulations in play, navigating vaccine-mandate decisions will not be a simple activity for employers with a broad geographic footprint.

Utilize authorized third-party vaccination partners

All vaccine providers must follow numerous data reporting directives as well as provide documentation to established medical record systems and immunization registries, such as Immunization Information Systems and the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Outside the U.S., provider and data reporting requirements stand to be just as complex, if not more so.

U.S. employers may avoid some of the above-mentioned challenges by using a federally authorized third party, such as a healthcare provider or pharmacy, to administer vaccinations. Doing so, employers can still receive proof employees received the vaccine … without being responsible for handling additional medical information. Employers may also wish to enlist nongovernmental organizations to aid in educating employees about the vaccination process, such as the Immunization Action Coalition or the Institute for Safe Medication Practices in the United States.

Limit what you ask employees

To facilitate verification of vaccination, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention set out to issue COVID-19 Vaccination Record Cards to be completed by the party administering the vaccine. Although intended to record the type, date and location of vaccination, as well as create a reminder for when to receive additional doses, this documentation is optional. Because providers can document proof of vaccination however they wish, there is a risk this information may be incomplete, or more than the employer should see. Specifically, employers must not ask for any information beyond simple proof of vaccination, as well as ensure that employees do not voluntarily offer such information to their employer. This includes, but is not limited to, why a particular employee may not – or could not – receive the vaccination, or any other personal or health-related information. Whatever information employers do collect should be carefully managed.

Enlisting experts is recommended

If your organization is considering mandating vaccines for employees or administering the doses itself, it’s a good idea to consult with outside counsel including specialized legal, HR and information security (or, as needed, labor relations) to help you navigate the process.


Vaccine Hesitancy and Conspiracy Mentalities in German: A Deadly Duo?­­

April 1, 2021
By Emma Cracknell and Haven Hightower

As we find ourselves at the one-year anniversary of the most severe health emergency of the modern era, we are still confronted with high infection levels and death rates overburdening our healthcare systems and economies. […]

The post Vaccine hesitancy and conspiracy mentalities in German: a deadly duo?­­ appeared first on European Union.


Regional Approaches and Shared Competencies, the Kryptonite for Anti-Vaxxers in Spain?

March 30, 2021
By Haven Hightower, Emma Cracknell and Enrique Marcos Collado

Vaccine trends in all EU countries are not entirely discouraging, offering some hope that summer holidays in a preferred destination for many European may be possible yet. […]

The post Regional approaches and shared competencies, the kryptonite for anti-vaxxers in Spain? appeared first on European Union.


The Topic of Vaccines Is Complicated — Employee Education Is a Good Place to Start

March 24, 2021

With COVID-19 vaccine distribution well underway, many employers are expanding their internal pandemic-related communications to include the topic of vaccination. Some employers may choose to mandate vaccinations, while others may choose only to encourage them. Either way, educating employees about why vaccination is important to their personal health and safety, public health, and business continuity is a critical step in inspiring and driving participation. Here are key considerations if you are examining this issue.

1. Understand the global/national/local landscape.

Vaccine types, availability, distribution policies and protocols vary widely across the globe and in the U.S., by state and county … and some are regularly changing. If vaccines are not broadly available, the manner in which you encourage vaccination may be counterproductive. That’s why the timing and location of communications will be important. If your organization is global, evaluate how vaccinations are being distributed in countries where you operate. Encouraging employees to be vaccinated may not make sense in countries where governments mandate it.

2. Position vaccination as one of many important COVID-19 safety steps.

Even if your company is mandating vaccinations, there will be employees who will not or cannot be vaccinated due to health concerns or firmly held religious beliefs. Additionally, in most cases you won’t know if others your employees interact with, such as customers or suppliers, are vaccinated, so other safety protocols like mask-wearing and social distancing, are likely to continue long into 2021, if not longer. With this in mind, it’s important to reinforce the full scope of your COVID-19 safety protocols in your communications, with vaccination being one of them, and set expectations for employees that vaccination is just one step in the long road ahead.

3. Focus first on health and safety.

While business continuity is an important outcome of employee vaccination and should be a message within your strategy, it shouldn’t be the first message. Ultimately, keeping employees and their families, customers, partners, suppliers and the community at large healthy and safe and minimizing the spread of the virus are the most important reasons – and messages – for vaccination.

4. Articulate the impact to business continuity.

Once employees understand their health and safety is your top priority, you can also reinforce the importance of moving the business forward. This is especially relevant for companies that have been negatively impacted by COVID-19 and experienced layoffs or furloughs. Getting vaccinated is one way most employees can be a part of getting the company back on track and improving job security. While that shouldn’t be your main message, it could still be an effective rallying cry.

5. Engage leaders in reinforcing messages and addressing employee concerns.

There are a multitude of reasons employees may feel concerned about or opposed to getting the vaccine. Prepare managers to address these concerns with talking points, FAQ and other resources. Depending on your workforce, you may find it valuable to conduct training with HR professionals and managers to support them in navigating potential tensions between those who choose to be vaccinated and those who will not.

6. Reference third-party sources to stay credible and on topic.

Cite respected health authorities for vaccine information. These may include the World Health Organization, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and their Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, and country, state or local public health authorities. Because vaccines of all kinds – including the COVID-19 vaccines – have been targeted for controversy, stick to the facts provided by health authorities and steer clear of political talk or unfounded conspiracy theories.

View the “Your Next Defining Moment: Navigating the COVID-19 Vaccine Landscape” report here.


What’s Driving Vaccine Hesitancy and What Can We Do About it?

By Haven Hightower

We explore trends and our own recent survey data to see where EU markets differ and converge on their trust of vaccine information It’s been over a year since COVID-19 became a health crisis with global proportions. […]

The post What’s driving vaccine hesitancy and what can we do about it? appeared first on European Union.


Vaccine Information: Many Europeans Trust Local Doctors over National Governments

By Haven Hightower

Measuring vaccine confidence in Europe: Exclusive FleishmanHillard research reveals trends in four European markets As vaccination plans are being rolled out across the European Union, it’s important to understand what sources of vaccine information Europeans trust when it comes to COVID-19. […]

The post Vaccine information: many Europeans trust local doctors over national governments appeared first on European Union.


U.S. Women Even Farther Away from Reaching Gender Equality and Their Full Potential After COVID-19

March 8, 2021
By Catherine Reynolds

New global data from UN Women suggests that the coronavirus pandemic could wipe out 25 years of increasing gender equality. The research reveals that employment and education opportunities could be lost, and women may suffer from worse mental and physical health because of it. In the month of September 2020 alone, it is estimated that in the U.S., 865,000 women dropped out of the labor force compared to 200,000 men, and women and girls are bearing the heaviest burden of home care and family care.

Furthermore, women impacted by domestic violence has been called a Pandemic within a Pandemic by the New England Journal of Medicine. Recent research has shown that domestic violence has increased by 8.1% since pandemic lockdowns started. Many feel that this increase is understated.

According to data from FleishmanHillard’s TRUE Global Intelligence 2021 Health Checkup Survey — U.S. Women’s Perspectives on Health Issues, Inequities and Well-Being, half of American women have felt limited due to their gender at least once in their lives — with an average of seven times in their lifetime. This number increases to nine times for Black, Hispanic and Asian women. Only one out of four women feel very optimistic (24%) that U.S. women will achieve gender equality in the next four years.

Survey respondents reported the most critical challenge that prevents women from reaching their full potential in the U.S. is not being heard and lack of respect, recognition and encouragement from men, society, family/friends or professional peers (43%). More than 20% of women also cite culture and government not ensuring that all women are protected from physical harm (24%) and policies that prevent having sexual and reproductive choices (21%) as other challenges that prevent them from reaching their full potential.

COVID-19 has added additional challenges for U.S. women, their health and well-being. The majority of women say that access to quality and affordable healthcare (94%), creating measures to stop violence against women (90%), and ensuring that all Americans have enough food (90%) are the most important issues facing women in the U.S. today.

There is also a significant need for professional help for women living with mental health conditions in the U.S. While nearly one-third of women (31%) in 2020 received professional help for a mental health condition (such as depression, anxiety, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, etc.), a quarter of women (26%) were not able to receive help for a mental health condition but felt that they needed it. Cost (36%), lack of time (27%) and lack of insurance (25%) were most often cited as barriers to accessing mental health support. Other key barriers were the perceived stigma associated with seeking treatment (23%) and difficulty finding a mental health professional that could meet virtually (22%).

Solutions are as challenging as the issues and barriers that U.S. women face. According to the survey, American women believe that it is the government’s responsibility to create measures to stop violence against women, provide access to affordable healthcare and ensure that all Americans have housing and enough food. Women also expect pharmaceutical companies to take responsibility and reduce the costs of prescription drugs and health insurance companies to provide access to mental health services. It is these same institutions that the research shows that women are least likely to trust to do what is right — companies as employers (40%), pharmaceutical companies (37%) and the federal government (28%).

Research suggests that if we show respect, we will teach respect. This means we respect our children, we respect other adults and we respect women. Perhaps the real and sustainable solution lies in individual people changing their own behavior to create change instead of following the culture and the institutions that no longer support women in society.


The Next Foodie: How Two Consumer Groups Are Impacting the Food Industry

February 25, 2021

When: Wednesday, March 3, 11 a.m. CST

Where: Webinar

Register for the virtual event here.

In late 2018, research from FleishmanHillard’s Food, Agriculture and Beverage (FAB) sector uncovered “Gen Food” — food-forward and food-engaged consumers more connected by shared values that far outweighed their demographic differences.

While the latest FleishmanHillard TRUE Global Intelligence (TGI) research shows the “Gen Food” consumer group still has strong influence, there is a new foodie group with a greater focus on indulgence and escape that has emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Join FleishmanHillard hosts, Kristie Sigler, North America FAB lead, and Paul Crispell, one of the U.S. TGI leaders, as they unveil and highlight the latest data. They will provide research, insights and thought-starters for food organizations wanting to authentically connect with these consumer groups.

Learn more about and register for the webinar here.


If Your Organization Includes Represented Employees, Remember to Engage the Union

February 24, 2021
By David Saltz and Marty Richter

Employees, customers and partners will be interested in a company’s stance on employee vaccinations – and as you develop your communications plan, remember to engage the union as a key stakeholder if your organization has union-represented employees in its workforce. Existing union agreements may influence policy decisions, including limiting the ability to mandate vaccinations. Not to mention that when proactively engaged and consulted, unions could be an important voice encouraging employees to be vaccinated.

1. Consider relevant law and collective bargaining obligations when developing vaccination policies.

Employers with union-represented employees should consider collective bargaining obligations and relevant law when developing and communicating vaccination policies – such as National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decisions in the United States. If employees are represented by a union, an employer unilaterally implementing a mandatory vaccination program could lead not only to union opposition, but possibly to an unfair labor practice charge before the NLRB, unless the current collective bargaining agreement and relevant NLRB decisions allow the employer to do so.

2. Consult with the union to gain its support.

For an employer with union-represented employees, surprising the union is rarely a good thing. Even if an employer believes that its collective bargaining agreement gives it the right to institute a vaccination program, consulting with the union before finalizing and communicating the approach could help to maximize buy-in. Securing legal guidance in advance of such outreach is strongly advised. Many unions favor early access to vaccines for their members, and if they are on the same page, the union could help build support for the company’s program and encourage participation.

3. Many unions are pro-vaccination.

A number of major unions – including the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters – have publicly pushed for access to vaccines for their members. The SEIU characterized vaccination as safe and effective in a Dec. 21 press release laying out seven principles for vaccine distribution: “Vaccines are a proven technology to prevent the spread of disease. The COVID vaccine is a critical tool to protect our families, ourselves and our communities as we fight to put an end to this deadly virus. We encourage SEIU members to take the vaccine.”

On its website, the UFCW urges members to “protect yourself with the COVID vaccine,” calling both available vaccines safe and effective.

In its release, the SEIU pushed for vaccinations to be free for employees, and for employees to be paid for time spent being vaccinated: “Vaccines must be provided free of charge, and workers should be provided with paid time off if the vaccination process requires them to miss work.”

4. But some unions have opposed making vaccinations mandatory.

Some unions, including the SEIU, have opposed mandatory vaccinations. The SEIU said in its Dec. 21 press release: “The best approach to encouraging universal vaccination is through education and outreach, not through making vaccination mandatory.” Still, many employers can make a strong case for requiring employee vaccinations if they make exceptions (for disabilities or sincerely held religious beliefs), and vaccinations are job-related and a business necessity, according to EEOC guidance provided in December. The more likely it is that non-vaccinated employees put customers, fellow employees or the general public at risk, the more compelling the case will be for a vaccination mandate.

5. Consider how your COVID-19 vaccine program may affect your different employee relationships.

Employers with no union-represented employees, and employers with a mix of represented and unrepresented employees, should thoughtfully consider how they implement and communicate a COVID-19 vaccine program across these different audiences. Helping to ensure that all employees feel they have a voice and are treated with respect in an environment free of favoritism and discrimination will help support good working relationships with unions where those exist … and reinforce direct relationships with employees where those exist. Communicating strategically across internal audiences can help to strengthen existing relationships while continuing to grow competitiveness.

View the “Your Next Defining Moment: Navigating the COVID-19 Vaccine Landscape” report here.


UK After COVID-19: A Panel Event by FleishmanHillard UK

February 22, 2021

When: Thursday, February 25, 12:30 – 13:30 p.m. GMT

Where: Webinar

Register for the virtual event here.

With COVID-19 vaccines underway, many UK citizens are wondering what the “new normal” will look like.

FleishmanHillard in the UK will host three guest speakers who will share their experiences and understanding of the COVID-19 pandemic, give attendees a glimpse of the anticipated political events following the vaccination rollout, and discuss broader strategies for the UK’s economic recovery. The panelists include:

  • Gagan Mohindra MP, PPS to the Department for Transport, chair of the APPG on Regeneration and Development and Conservative MP for South West Hertfordshire
  • Nicolas Bosetti, research manager at the Centre for London
  • Molly Blackall, political journalist

Learn more about and register for the webinar here.