Only about 10% of the business executives who participated in the survey Tuesday said they were taking a step back from their plans, according to Brian Kropp, the chief of research at consulting firm Gartner’s HR practice. Another 30% said they are still weighing how to proceed.
“When you look at the number of companies that have already put in a mandate, it’d be hard for them to turn it around,” said Kropp.
That legal uncertainty is one reason that many experts say it makes sense for businesses to move ahead with the plans for vaccine mandates or testing.
“If they’re paying attention, they will understand this is a preliminary decision. There’s a whole lot of legal process yet to unfold,” said one industry expert involved in advising companies what to do, who asked that he and his organization not be identified. “Just about everyone will tell you this is heading to the Supreme Court before the end of the year. People need to understand this isn’t dead yet.”
“In general business people want to get back to normal and vaccines are the quickest way to get to normal,” said Adam Galinsky, professor of leadership and ethics at the business school at Columbia University. “Mandates work.”
Many businesses were counting on the the federal mandate to allow them to put in place rules they wanted — so they could tell their vaccine-hesistant workers they had no choice but to get the shot. They also wouldn’t have to worry about losing those workers who didn’t want a vaccine to similar-sized companies.
“This court decision creates another stumbling block for employers who want the rules,” said Kropp. “Now they have to go back and respond to employees who say ‘The courts say it’s illegal.'”
Retailers in particular have voiced opposition to the idea of a federal vaccine mandate. The National Retail Federation is one of the groups that has praised the court’s move to put the federal rules on hold, saying that the federal mandate would hurt many of its members through the loss of suspended employees during this highly competitive labor market, compliance and monitoring costs associated with the mandate, the diversion of resources.
“The court recognizes that the [federal mandate] presents an incredible and unprecedented burden on millions of businesses across the country. They acknowledge the tragic loss of life and the seriousness of Covid-19, but that transmission is not inherently a workplace issue,” said the retailers’ trade group.
Some employers seeking workers are including “no vaccine required” in their job listings as a way of attracting vaccine-hesitant workers.
Kropp said with many businesses planning to reopen offices early next year for the first time since the start of the pandemic, employers also have to worry about employees not wanting to return to the office without the assurance that their co-workers are all vaccinated as well. That’s another reason that some employers will go ahead with their own rules, even if the ongoing court battles mean the federal rules won’t go into effect by the planned date of January 4.
“The advice that HR execs are getting from their general counsels is this will happen, that this is a perfectly legal mandate,” said Kropp. “But this could delay things two or three months. For businesses that don’t want to delay their office reopenings while they wait on the courts, that’s another reason to go ahead with their own rules.”